Administration’s Move Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization On National Level
We’ve previously discussed the criminality of marijuana; what the penalties around in various states such as New York and New Jersey; as well as what’s ahead for the decriminalization of the substance.
In early January, the Trump administration took things in a different direction, freeing federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have decriminalized its possession and related activities.
New Department Of Justice Reverses Previous Policy
The previous administration had discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing charges in states where the substance had been deemed legal. Yet, in the first week of January, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed marijuana to be a dangerous drug, and has referred to “marijuana activity” as a “serious crime.”
States’ Rights Issue?
Many on the hill have already scorned the move, threatening to hold up Justice Department appointments requiring Senate approval and/or encouraging cooperation amongst states that already decided to legalize the use of marijuana. Those opposed to the move have pointed out that it is well within the states’ rights to make this decision for themselves.
What It Means On the Ground
Although the use of marijuana—both recreationally and/or medically—remains illegal under federal law, 29 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized its use in one form or another. And while there has always been conflict between these state laws and the federal law prohibiting its use, the administration in control typically determines whether prosecutors will prioritize marijuana-related prosecutions around the country.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t help the many businesses who constantly find themselves stuck in limbo when it comes to operating a marijuana-related business. Many have found themselves losing their bank accounts or lines of credit, and never quite knowing if they are going to be federally prosecuted. How the move is going to impact banking is reportedly a significant issue for the industry.
Marijuana has also become an important industry in various states, creating new jobs, bringing in hundreds of millions in state revenues, and helping to fund law enforcement, schools, and other important programs. Some are hoping that the move by Sessions won’t persuade federal enforcement officials to take resources away from more important criminal enforcement priorities—such as prosecuting sex trafficking and the sale and possession of heroin, etc.—in order to shut down a few small marijuana dispensaries.
The next option for states might be for Congress to pass a bill passing on this federal power to them to write their own marijuana regulations.
New York & New Jersey Marijuana & Drug Crime Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are charged with a drug crime as the result of this change, do not hesitate to reach out to our firm today to find out how we can help. We’ve been providing criminal defense services for drug crimes throughout New York and New Jersey for more than 25 years. Contact us at the office of Phillip J. Murphy today for a free consultation to find out more.