Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Saturday that federal prosecutors won’t go after small-time cannabis crimes, but will instead focus their energies on large conspiracies and narcotics gangs.
This may come as some small relief to marijuana advocates concerned over Session’s withdrawal of Obama-era protections for legal practitioners of marijuana business in states with legalized cannabis programs. However, what exactly constitutes “small-time” and what qualifies as a “large conspiracy” are by no means set in stone, and prosecutors will have some wiggle room in deciding what crimes deserve their attention, particularly since cannabis remains illegal on a federal level.
Whatever the distinctions, Sessions said during a speech at Georgetown University last weekend that “routine cases” will not be a priority for federal agencies. Federal prosecutors “haven’t been working small marijuana cases before, they are not going to be working them now,” he said, but clarified that “I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States law,” as reported by The Associated Press.
The gray area for federal law enforcement could lie in illegal cannabis cultivation and in black-market pot operations camouflaged by legitimate licensed businesses. “Those are the kinds of things each one of those U.S. attorneys will decide how to handle,” Sessions said.
In Sessions’s home state of Alabama, a man was just sentenced to three years in prison because of seven cannabis plants discovered in his backyard, as reported by the Athens News Courier and the AP. 40-year-old Robert Michael Musick of Athens was found guilty of drug trafficking last week, and given two years of probation on top of his jail sentence. His lawyer argued that the penalty was unnecessarily harsh.
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