On Jan. 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo that enables the federal government to intervene in the legalization of marijuana throughout each state.
Regardless of a state’s marijuana legalization policy, under federal law, marijuana use has been and still is illegal. Federal law forbids the growing, use, and buying or selling of marijuana.
However, the 2013 "Cole memo" served as a directive for how U.S. attorneys should handle the legalization of marijuana in order for the federal government to exercise a hands-off approach to states legalization. Session’s memo repeals that Obama-era policy.
In this new memo, Sessions permits U.S. attorneys to seriously enforce federal law -- rescinding the Cole memo -- in states where marijuana use is both illegal and legal.
"The previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission," wrote Sessions, according to NBC.
In some states, recreational marijuana use has been legal for five years, and those states are vowing to fight this new memo.
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.
According to Forbes, 2017 marijuana sales totaled $6.7 billion in North America. Sales are expected to reach $17 billion for 2018, claims Fortune.
Other state officials expressed disappointment. "This was not a part of the agenda, this was not a part of the plan, many of us were misled," said Colorado Sen. Corey Gardner.
In a tweet, Gardner threatened to retaliate by blocking confirmation of Sessions' nominees for DOJ positions.
Although Sessions gave permission to prosecute marijuana cases, a Justice Department official believes that he did not demand prosecutions or threaten the marijuana industry, NBC reports.
In the memo, Sessions emphasized that he "simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country."
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said that state was blindsided by the announcement, according to CNN. "I will say that there was no warning about this guidance. We had no idea it was coming, and like you, we woke up this morning to the news that there was new direction from Attorney General Sessions," she said. However, she doesn't expect much change in the way they already handle marijuana.