Medical marijuana seen at risk following move by Sessions

When U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions green-lighted federal prosecutions of marijuana lawbreakers, the vast majority of U.S. states that allow some form of medical marijuana were unexpectedly placed at risk of a crackdown and are warily watching developments.

Forty six states — including Sessions’ home state of Alabama — have legalized some form of medical marijuana in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight of those states also allow recreational marijuana.

Among the guidance that Sessions rescinded was the so-called Ogden Memorandum of 2009 that instructed federal prosecutors not to pursue cases against medical marijuana patients and distributors who complied with state laws.

“Previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately,” Sessions told the U.S. attorneys based in all 50 states in a letter Thursday.

Georgia state Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican who sponsored a bill in his state’s legislature that legalized possession of medical marijuana in 2015, denounced the move.

“I’m very disappointed in Jeff Session’s actions,” Peake said Friday in a telephone interview. “He will be hurting the grandfather with Alzheimer’s, the soccer mom with breast cancer, the college student with Crohn’s disease, the young child with seizures — these are the people that will be impacted by this action by the attorney general.”

The only legal protection now for medical marijuana growers, processors, sellers and users is a temporary measure sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) prohibiting the U.S. Department of Justice from using government funds to target them.

Rohrabacher, in a conference call with reporters and four other members of Congress, said Sessions’ move should galvanize national support for marijuana legalization.

“This is a wakeup call for American people who believe in freedom,” Rohrabacher said. “It will mobilize people throughout the country.”

Many politicians, including Republicans, have cast Session’s move as an infringement on states’ rights.

Only Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas do not allow any access to marijuana, said Karmen Hanson, a cannabis policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many of the states that allow some form of medical marijuana did so in 2013 and 2014. About half of the initiatives have been passed by voters in ballot measures, and…

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