Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made the decision to cancel the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country.
Sessions will let federal prosecutors where pot is legal to decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law. The announcement is set to be made on Thursday as revealed by people familiar with the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Some suggest that the move will likely add to the confusion about whether it's OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where pot is legal since the long-standing federal law prohibits it. This comes days after pot shops opened in California, launching what is expected to become the world's largest market for legal recreational marijuana and as polls show a solid majority of Americans believe the drug should be legal.
Pot advocates argue that legalizing the drug eliminates the need for a black market and would likely reduce violence since criminals would no longer control the marijuana trade.
The Obama administration in 2013 announced it would not stand in the way of states that legalize marijuana, so long as officials acted to keep it from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and out of the hands of criminal gangs and children. That memo, which was written by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, will be rescinded by Sessions.
The policy set by Sessions will let U.S. attorneys across the country decide what kinds of federal resources to devote to marijuana enforcement based on what they see as priorities in their districts.
Threats of a federal crackdown have united liberals who object to the human costs of a war on the pot with conservatives who see it as a states' rights issue. Some in law enforcement support a tougher approach, but a bipartisan group of senators in March urged Sessions to uphold existing marijuana policy. Others in Congress have been seeking ways to protect and promote legal pot businesses.