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McKenna: New weed policy could mean ‘more marijuana prosecutions’

LISTEN: McKenna: New federal policy could mean 'more marijuana prosecutions'

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that allowed marijuana businesses to operate in states such as Washington. Of course, the drug is still illegal under federal law.

“[The federal government isn’t] doing anything at this point to crack down on marijuana in Washington or any other state where it’s been legalized,” former Attorney General Rob McKenna said on the Ron and Don Show. “What the attorney general announced today was simply that they’re revoking what are called the Cole Memoranda. A couple of memos that basically under the Obama administration directed U.S. attorneys that moved prosecution of marijuana offenses down the priority list.”

“By revoking the Cole Memos, they appear to be signaling to U.S. attorneys that they are free to bring a marijuana-related case if they want to,” McKenna added.

RELATED: Seattle pot shop owner responds to new federal weed policy

At a recent National Association of Attorneys General meeting, Jeff Sessions expressed his dismay for the drug.

“I, as you know, am dubious about marijuana … I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store,” Sessions said.

Over two dozen states have now legalized the drug, at least for medicinal use. McKenna said that the Cole Memo when in place, didn’t necessarily ban weed-related prosecution in those states.

“Even in the Obama administration, there were factors that a U.S. attorney could use to bring a marijuana-related case in a state like Washington. For example, if the U.S. attorney concluded the state was not adequately regulating the drug, if there was evidence that marijuana was being shipped out of the state, prosecutions could be brought,” McKenna said. “It’s notable that those prosecutions never happened, at least as far as I know.”

It is still unknown exactly what consequences Sessions’ announcement will have on the weed industry. There are more than 745 active licensed producers and more than 300 retailers, KIRO 7 reports. The state expects to generate about $740 million from the industry through taxes and licenses over the next two years.

Pot sales in the state surpassed $1.3 billion in 2017.

“You could start to see more marijuana prosecutions in other parts of the country, but I don’t predict that will happen in Washington state. I also think it’s worth noting that there’s not much that Washington state officials can do about it if a U.S. attorney does decide to bring such a case because this is a matter of federal law and federal prosecution,” McKenna said. “The governor, the mayor of Seattle, and others can stand up and pound their chests all they want, but they don’t actually have the power to stop the federal government from pursuing prosecutions if they choose to do so.”

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