The AP reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will rescind an Obama-era memo that discouraged enforcement of federal marijuana restrictions on states where cannabis has been legalized. The announcement is expected sometime today by the Justice Department, according to two confidential sources who spoke with the AP.

UPDATE: (11: 45 a.m.):
And now the memo has been rescinded, according to the DOJ. Here’s a copy of the letter Sessions sent to federal prosecutors. A statement was also released from Sessions.


“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and 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,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement 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.”

This could give pause to some of the players in the emerging medical marijuana market in Arkansas. It also comes just after a California law that allows recreational marijuana went into effect at the beginning of the year.

A majority of states have either decriminalized marijuana, made recreational use legal or approved medical marijuana, according to NORML, which tracks cannabis laws. Once the memo is rescinded, U.S. prosecutors would have the ability to bring federal marijuana cases in these states.


UPDATE (4: 45 p.m.)

Cody Hiland’s office, the U.S. attorney for Arkansas’s Eastern district offered the following statement this afternoon, said they are still preparing a statement on the memo.


The Attorney General’s announcement today underscores his continued commitment to entrust prosecutorial discretion to the U.S. Attorney’s throughout the country.

We are a nation of laws and not men. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and that is what this office has done and will continue to do throughout my term as U.S. Attorney.

To that end, we will continue to exercise our prosecutorial discretion and evaluate criminal cases on an individual basis as it relates to the law and the facts as presented.

And Kenneth Esler’s office, U.S. attorney for the Western district, referred the Times to the DOJ’s main office.

Sessions, famously, hates marijuana, and Politico magazine recently ran a story worrying that federal restrictions on going after legal pot would crumble — leaving open the ability for Sessions to go after the industry. The backtrack on the memo may be just the first step, wrote James Higdon.

Thanks to Congress’ fumbling over the spending bill, the AG’s yearning to battle legal marijuana may get a major boost without him having to lift a finger. That’s because Rohrabacher-Farr, a little-known and even less discussed amendment that protects state-legal medical marijuana programs from federal interference, is close to expiring. … [If] negotiations in an upcoming appropriations conference committee fail to insert it in the final draft of the spending bill—entirely possible given House Republicans’ hostility to marijuana—Sessions would be free to unleash federal drug agents on a drug, which according to federal drug law, is considered the equal of heroin and LSD.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has so far survived the spending bill debate. But it’s fate is unclear as Congress continues to debate the federal budget.

This isn’t the first DOJ memo Sessions has rolled back since becoming attorney general. He also took back a memo that told courts not to impose high fines and unnecessarily jail those who cannot pay (a New York Times op-ed headline against the decision: “Sessions Says to Courts: Go Ahead, Jail People Because They’re Poor“).


UPDATE (11: 48 a.m.)

A heavy backlash has already begun to the Sessions decision from legislators.