Tue | Feb 20, 2018

Federal pot policy change sparks confusion, crackdown fears

Published:Saturday | January 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP):

The buzz kill long dreaded in the marijuana industry came just days after California opened what is expected to be the world's largest legal pot market.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it was ending an Obama-era policy to tread lightly on enforcing U.S. marijuana laws. The declaration renewed anxiety, confusion and uncertainty that has long shadowed the bright green leafy drug still forbidden under federal law but now legal in a majority of states as medicine and in a handful of those for recreational purposes.

"Everybody is super worried. My phone has been going off the hook," said Terry Blevins, who runs a security firm and is part-owner of a marijuana distribution company in Southern California. "They are all, 'What does this mean? ... Is the federal government going to come into California" to raid businesses?

 

HEADY TIME FOR INDUSTRY

 

Officials wouldn't say if federal prosecutors would target pot shops and legal growers, nor would they speculate on whether pot prosecutions would increase.

The action by Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not unexpected given his longtime opposition to pot, but comes at a heady time for the industry as retail pot sales rolled out New Year's Day in California.

In 2013, United States President Barack Obama's attorney general advised prosecutors not to waste money targeting pot growers and sellers that were abiding by state laws, but to go after flagrant violations such as trafficking across state lines or selling to minors. Under this policy, several states legalised recreational pot, growers and sellers had begun to drop their guard over fears of a federal crackdown and the business blossomed into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry feeding state government programmes with tax dollars.