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Local marijuana dispensary reacts federal marijuana crackdown

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-04 18:47:51-05

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he is rescinding a trio of memos from the Obama administration that adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. 

While many states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana use, the drug is still illegal under federal law, creating a conflict between federal and state law.



The main Justice Department memo addressing the issue, known as the "Cole memo" for then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole in 2013, set forth new priorities for federal prosecutors operating in states where the drug had been legalized for medical or other adult use. It represented a major shift from strict enforcement to a more hands-off approach, so long as they didn't threaten other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of the drug to minors and cartels.

In Arizona, nearly 180,000 people have a medical marijuana cards and those card holders range from kids to seniors.

Katalina Bailey of Tucson was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2012. 

After years of feeling ill, going to the hospital and taking prescription pills Bailey chose the medical marijuana route. 

"This year I was able to get a medical marijuana card in Arizona and because of this, one medication I have available I was able to stop narcotic pain medication," says Bailey. 

Brian Warde, CEO of The Prime Leaf dispensary at 4220 East Speedway Blvd. says the the roll back from the Cole Memo is alarming but not detrimental. 

Warde says, "We want everything to be safe and above board which is exactly what the Cole Memo outlined in the beginning. Those were the rules and regulations and it's the same regulations that we follow with the Arizona Department of Health."

Warde says, the cannabis industry has changed and so is the conversation surrounding it.

"The impact is in the initial legislation the Cole Memo protected dispensaries as long we were following state law that they would not roll federal prosecution focused towards dispensaries as long as we were compliant within the state legislation," says Warde.

The memo will be rescinded but it's not immediately clear whether Sessions will issue new guidance in its place or simply revert back to older policies that left states with legal uncertainty about enforcement of federal law.

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