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Attorney general's stand on marijuana raises concerns for users

When U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the beginning of the year that he was directing federal prosecutors to use their own discretion in dealing with marijuana users, people throughout Maryland and other states who legally use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes were understandably concerned.

Although state laws regarding marijuana vary widely, it is still illegal under federal law. During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice announced a policy, stating that in most cases, it wouldn't go after users in states where the drug is legal.

Now, under Sessions' new policy, U.S. attorneys can use federal resources as they deem fit to enforce and prosecute marijuana-related offenses. Even though President Trump said during his campaign that he believed marijuana legalization was up to individual states, his spokeswoman responded to questions about the turnaround saying, "Whether it's marijuana or whether it's immigration, the president strongly believes that we should enforce federal law."

So what does this mean for states like ours, where marijuana is legal for medicinal use and where dispensaries just opened in December? Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh called the change in policy "wrong-headed" and "disruptive."

However, Frosh says he doesn't see any way to take legal action against Sessions' policy. He notes, "There has always been an uncertainty over the legalization aspects of the sale of marijuana, whether it's for medicinal use or recreational use. The federal government still has laws against it."

Obviously, the actions of the U.S. attorney general throw people who are using marijuana in accordance with state law into limbo. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges related to marijuana, an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney can help.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Trump policy change on marijuana raises questions in Maryland," Pamela Wood, Jan. 04, 2018

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