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Pot confusion in the US

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, creating new confusion about enforcement and use just three days after a new legalization law went into effect in California.

President Donald Trump's top law enforcement official was to announce the change Thursday, people with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. Instead of the previous lenient-federal-enforcement policy, Sessions' new stance will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it, the people said.

Sessions' plan drew immediate strong objection from Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Gardner said in a tweet that the Justice Department "has trampled on the will of the voters" in Colorado and other states. He said the action would contradict what Sessions had told him before the attorney general was confirmed and that he was prepared "to take all steps necessary" to fight the step including holding up the confirmation of Justice Department nominees.

Sessions is rescinding the policy by president Barack Obama's Justice Department that has generally barred federal law enforcement officials from interfering with marijuana sales in states where the drug is legal.

The people familiar with the plan spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it before the announcement.

The move by Trump's attorney general likely is sure to add to confusion about whether it's OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where the drug is legal. It comes just after 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.

While Sessions has been carrying out a Justice Department agenda that follows Trump's top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, the changes to marijuana policy reflect his own concerns. Trump's personal views on marijuana remain largely unknown.

Sessions, who has assailed marijuana as comparable to heroin and has blamed it for spikes in violence, had been expected to ramp up enforcement. Marijuana advocates argue that legalizing the drug eliminates the need for a black market and will likely reduce violence, since criminals would no longer control the marijuana trade.

The marijuana business has since become a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund some government programs. Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and California's sales alone are projected to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue within several years.

Sessions' policy 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, the people familiar with the decision said.



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