State lawmakers expected in new session to debate legalizing pot

Gov. Hickenlooper says Sessions told him they wouldn't go after marijuana

Pueblo cannabis industry and lawmakers react to Sessions announcement

In Florida, where the voter mandated medical marijuana program is still in its infancy, businesses and investors are scrambling to figure out the implications of the new federal policy.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) calls it a prudent step.

The Obama administration told prosecutors to consider factors other than possession and sale, like diversion to children or gangs ties, before pursuing a case. Sessions, in his memo, instructs prosecutors to weigh relevant considerations like "the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community".

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said limited federal resources should be spent to address more important issues.

"Strong as we are on state's rights here in Texas", Williams said. "Give me a break", he said.

"U.S. Attorneys who are charged with enforcing federal criminal law will now be encouraged to bring federal drug charges against people who are for example are operating a dispensary and is very easy for the federal agents to prove you are running a dispensary because you got a license from the state", he said.

Marijuana is now legal in much of the West, as well as in MA and Maine.

Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, said Mr. Sessions had personally assured him that the Obama-era rules wouldn't be rolled back.

Spokespeople for groups that voice concern about the commercialization and health impacts of marijuana said all medication should be approved by federal regulators before its sold. And though justice officials said they would follow the law, they would not preclude the possibility of medical-marijuana related prosecutions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement could have far-reaching implications for jobs, taxes and economic development across the country. Nevada, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia had been allowing recreational use, while ME and MA were figuring out how to implement referendums to legalize use.

"Until the slow, clunking machinery of the federal government catches up with the values and will of the people it purportedly serves, states -like California - will continue to both resist and, more importantly, to lead".

On Dec. 28, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association had already suffered a setback, when a state Supreme Court justice dismissed its lawsuit meant to block health officials from doubling the number of companies permitted to grow and distribute medical marijuana in New York.

A budtender assists a customer at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles in December. The federal government has refused to lower the classification of marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug, keeping it on par with narcotics like heroin and cocaine, despite its widespread use and little evidence that cannabis is anywhere near as harmful as even alcohol.

"The most disappointing point about this is that it goes against what over half the states and half the population of the country have voted to support", said Jeffry Paul of Cannabiniers, a Nevada-based manufacturer of cannabis-infused teas and coffee.

Mr. Sessions' decision could pump the brakes on states looking to join the ranks of legalization - though analysts said a lot depends on how prosecutors move forward.

California is expected to become the nation's largest recreational pot market, with predictions that it will pump $5 billion into the local economy and generate more than $1 billion in tax revenue over the next few years. One in five Americans lives in a legalization state, and 29 states have medical cannabis laws. Nor does Moen think the DEA will ramp up marijuana enforcement, particularly given how closely the federal agents rely on their local and state partnerships in drug task forces.

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