"I can't sit here and say whether it will or will not lead to more marijuana prosecutions", the official continued.
By Thursday afternoon, one US attorney in a key jurisdiction said Sessions' new guidelines wouldn't change federal enforcement there.
The Obama policy it replaces is contained in a series of memos authored by then Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who set priorities for federal involvement to cases involving distribution to minors, revenue going to criminal gangs, using state law as a cover to traffic marijuana to states without comparable laws, and prevention of "drugged driving".
It's not clear what impact the change will have or whether federal prosecutions of marijuana cultivation or sales will increase, but the change makes prosecution easier. "It's probably going to make people a little bit more cautious and it's going to cause some fights, but I think this is sort of the last fight that the prohibitionists may be putting up".
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has strong words for the Trump administration: "We will not be bullied by an administration that seems obsessed with dismantling things that are actually working", reports CBS. The president had seemingly supported marijuana on the campaign trail, saying he thought it should be left up to the states. While Sessions technically gave federal prosecutors the right to go after anyone buying pot, marijuana attorney Brian Vicente doubts any government agencies would use self-admitted "finite resources" to bring charges against an average dispensary customer, especially one following Colorado state laws. Colorado has a new statewide plant-count limit (the cap of twelve applies to everyone including medical patients, unless they receive a plant-count extension from the state), but it falls to local and state law enforcement officials to enforce that.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but eight states including California and Colorado have legalized the drug, as has Washington, D.C. Twenty-eight states permit some form of medical marijuana use.
Another 21 states have medical marijuana laws on the books, including red states like Arkansas, which passed its ballot referendum in 2016, and Florida, which put its own measure over the top by a whopping 71 percent at the polls.
Some in the marijuana industry are taking a similar wait-and-see approach.
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According to NORML,-a group that promotes legalization of marijuana-medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment.
The weed business has bloomed into a multi-million dollar industry.
"Given the Department's well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately", Sessions said.
The change, he said, removes "clarity and consistency" for an industry that depended on it.
Jeff Sessions has stated that it is up to Congress to change federal law regarding marijuana, and until such a change occurs, it is up to him as Attorney General to enforce federal laws as they are.
The new US attorney in Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, a Trump appointee who was confirmed by the Senate in mid-December, called marijuana "a unsafe drug" in his statement on Sessions' action.
The Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, a regular critic of legal marijuana, issued a statement advocating a federal crackdown.