U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated Thursday morning that he intended to rescind the Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy that codified the federal government's position that states can determine their own reasonable and responsible regulations on cannabis growth, sales and use.
The policy change could turn back the clock in states like Oregon that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use, and allow the feds to and arrest people who are following every state law to the letter.
Oregon politicians reacted to the announcement with outrage, concern and disgust.
"This is a destructive decision and a huge step backwards," says U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon). "Whatever happened to Attorney General Sessions' belief in states' rights? There is nothing to be gained from going back to an era when federal resources were wasted prosecuting nonviolent cannabis crimes."
The decisions to crack down on states with legalized cannabis stands in stark contrast to the opinion of a growing number of Americans who believe that marijuana should be legal and regulated at the state level.
"This is outrageous," says U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon). "Going against the majority of Americans—including a majority of Republican voters—who want the federal government to stay out of the way is perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the Attorney General has made."
"Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said in a statement. "Now he's breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. Once again the Trump administration is doubling down on protecting states' rights only when they believe the state is right."
Governor Kate Brown says Sessions' decision could cripple the Oregon economy and destroy small businesses who had been working hard to follow the state's rules for years now.
"Reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will roll back federal marijuana policy are deeply concerning and disruptive to our state's economy," Brown said in a statement. "Over 19,000 jobs have been created by the market Oregon worked carefully to build in good faith and in accordance with the Cole Memorandum. The federal government must keep its promise to states that relied on its guidance."
She vowed to fight to ensure that Oregon's cannabis industry would continue to thrive in the state.
Update Jan. 4: Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum also promised to protect the state's cannabis industry.
"Last year in Oregon, we collected over $60 million in state taxes as a result of our now legal marijuana industry," Rosenblum said in a statement. "This is an industry that Oregonians have chosen—and one I will do everything within my legal authority to protect."