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Attorney General says prosecute pot users

New Jersey is one of 29 states, plus Washington, D.C., to have legalized marijuana in some form. Some states, such as California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine, have legalized, or at least decriminalized, the recreational use of marijuana. Washington, D.C., has done likewise. All of these states regulate and tax the production and sale of marijuana, bringing substantial revenues into state coffers.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo to all federal prosecutors rescinding the Obama policy of not prosecuting marijuana growers, retailers and users in states that have legalized marijuana usage. Given that New Jersey already has a medical marijuana law in place and may become the next state to legalize its recreational use, residents of this state who enjoy smoking an occasional joint may find themselves at risk for facing drug possession charges.

Marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law. Five years ago, however, the Obama Justice Department told federal prosecutors to “deprioritize” prosecutions of marijuana-related offenses, particularly in states where some form of the drug’s production, sale and possession is legal. President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Session, a known opponent of marijuana legalization, basically reversed the Obama policy by virtue of his January 4 memo. As of that date, federal prosecutors have much more leeway to enforce federal marijuana laws by means of prosecuting those who produce, sell or use it.

With this new policy now in place, New Jersey marijuana growers and retailers may find themselves and their businesses at risk. Users, too, may find it useful to speak with an attorney before lighting up anywhere except in the privacy of their own homes.

Source: The New York Times, “Trump Administration Takes Step That Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization Movement,” Charlie Savage and Jack Healy, Jan. 4, 2018

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