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Sessions' Pot Edict Could Be a Downer for Cannabis Lawyers

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 05, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Remember when pot used to be...

Oh that's right, you don't remember when you use pot. But still, it used to be legal in an increasing number of states.

Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered his legal troops to take another look at enforcing marijuana laws, however, the good old days may be ending for attorneys who serve the cannabis industry.

Recreational or Medical Use?

Six states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington -- allow the sale and use of recreational marijuana. Massachusetts and Maine are moving the same direction. Many more states permit it for medicinal purposes.

But Sessions has revoked an Obama-era directive that told U.S. attorneys not to go after marijuana prosecutions in states that had made it legal. The attorney general now says it is up to government attorneys whether to enforce federal laws -- which have long classified marijuana as a controlled substance.

If cannabis lawyers were walking a fine line by advising clients who grow, sell, or use pot before, they are now walking a high-wire. They will be second-guessing the attorney general and hoping they don't get caught in an undertow.

Will the government enforce laws only in recreational states? Will they selectively prosecute growers or dispensaries? Marijuana business attorneys may find themselves practicing more criminal defense in the near future.

Just Getting Started

It will be especially difficult in states like California, which legalized recreational use on January 1. Not only did businesses invest in it, the government planned on collecting their taxes.

In Washington, the marijuana industry sells $700 million of pot annually. There are more than 1,700 weed farms, processors, and retailer in the state.

Ian Eisenberg, an owner of a chain of pot shops there, said that enforcement could be devastating to the industry if credit unions are scared off. But Larry Perrigo, a pot farmer in Seattle, said the issue will be "tided up in court for longer than Trump is in office."

"It would be inconvenient," Perrigo said. "But, you know, we've dealt with inconvenience in the past. It's not like we're going to stop."

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