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A majority of Americans now live in states where they have decided to legalize cannabis.” The Department of Justice, however, seems to have indicated that opioid policy and immigration are its top concerns. When asked whether he plans to enforce the federal government’s cannabis prohibition in states that have chosen to legalize, Sessions has said that the Department of Justice lacks the resources to do so. UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 28: Adam Eidinger and a few other members of the Washington, DC marijuana rights group DCMJ enter the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. The group met with Sen. Sessions’ staff to discuss the Senator’s statements on marijuana use. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) In January, just days after California’s legal market was implemented, Sessions reversed the Cole Memo policies, which protected legal states from federal prosecution. The AG passed the authority to enforce the federal cannabis ban on to local US attorneys and has said little about the DOJ’s policy on marijuana since. Most US Attorneys have also said that they have bigger priorities than cannabis, like opioids and immigration. But the Cole Memo remained a central part of the letter to Sessions as it also provided a sense of security for financial institutions which fear prosecution under federal law for providing services to the cannabis industry. “With legalization taking place,” California Treasurer, John Chiang, wrote in the letter, “there are sound public policy reasons for providing financial institutions and other entities that do business with the cannabis industry some comfort that they will not be prosecuted, or lose access to customer assets, simply for banking this industry.” When Deputy Attorney General James Cole drafted his memo in 2013, the Treasury Department followed along with a document known as the FinCEN Guidance, which allowed banks to do business with the cannabis industry so long as they thoroughly vet the businesses they provide services to. That guidance remains in place today, but its reliance on the Cole Memo has caused some to speculate whether the protections it provides are still valid.
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