In a national vote widely viewed as a victory for conservatives, last year’s elections also yielded a win for liberals in eight states that legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. The growing industry is facing a federal crackdown under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has compared cannabis to heroin, reports the New York Times. A Sessions task force that is reviewing links between violent crimes and marijuana is scheduled to release its findings this month. Sessions already has asked Senate leaders to roll back rules that block the Justice Department from bypassing state laws to enforce a federal ban on medical marijuana.
That has pitted Sessions against members of Congress across the political spectrum, who are determined to defend states’ rights and provide some certainty for the multibillion-dollar pot industry. “Our attorney general is giving everyone whiplash by trying to take us back to the 1960s,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), whose district includes the so-called Emerald Triangle that produces much of America’s marijuana. “Prosecutorial discretion is everything given the current conflict between the federal law and the law of many states.” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, has said the Trump administration would look into enforcing federal law against recreational marijuana businesses. About one-fifth of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal for adult use, according to the Brookings Institution, and an estimated 200 million live in places where medicinal marijuana is legal. Consumers spent $5.9 billion on legal cannabis in the U.S. last year, according to the Arcview Group. A Quinnipiac University poll in February said 59 percent of American voters believe cannabis should be legal.