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Marijuana Advocate Concerned with Sessions Move


U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding memos that outlined a policy of no interference from the federal government in states that have legalized marijuana.

One marijuana activist says she expects this to cause problems in states where the U.S. attorney has issues with marijuana use.

The main Justice Department memo addressing the legal marijuana issue, known as the "Cole memo” 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.

Kari Boiter, a legislative analyst for the group Americans for Safe Access, says the end result of Sessions's action will mean some U.S. attorneys may decide to try to prosecute individual marijuana cases in states where pot is legal.

“You better hope you’re in the jurisdiction of a very friendly U.S. district attorney. So in Western Washington, you may be OK, depending on who gets to replace Jenny Durkin. In Eastern Washington, arguably, I think (Joseph) Harrington is worse than Mike Ormsby,” says Boiter.

Wednesday, Harrington was named the Interim U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington. Ormsby, who preceded him, brought federal charges against the group known as the “Kettle Falls 5” for manufacturing marijuana, when medical pot was legal in the state.

Those convictions were vacated by a U.S. District Court judge in Spokane on Wednesday, at the request of federal prosecutors.

Boiter says the Kettle Falls case is a good example of how individuals can be targeted by federal prosecutors in states with legal medical and recreational marijuana.

“But what we saw in Kettle Falls, what we’re seeing now, is what we could see with a whole lot of people, and it probably won’t be as good of an outcome, because the Kettle Falls outcome has been extraordinarily positive for them. Everyone else that I have worked for is in prison,” Boiter said.

Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana. 29 have legalized medical cannabis.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.