CINCINNATI — In September 2017, Colorado-based Marijuana Business Daily predicted Ohio had “the potential to be a serious heavyweight” in the medical marijuana industry. On Wednesday, countless state regulators and business owners were heading into the new year with a checklist of regulations, registries and decisions to finalize before Sept. 8.
On Thursday, however, pot advocates such as James Gould were beginning to worry about the future of legal marijuana in the Buckeye State.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that afternoon he intended to rescind a trio of Obama-era policies that adopted a federal policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. Although pot cultivation is legal in 29 states, it is technically illegal on a federal level, and Sessions’ decision could open the door for messy legal battles regarding the legality of pot across the country.
“They’re taking away rights from states and putting it in the hands of the federal government,” Gould, CEO of Downtown-based marijuana firm CannAscend, said. “That’s wrong. That’s not what this is about.”
The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth by Barack Obama’s Justice Department allowed the pot business to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund some state government programs. What happens now is in doubt.
“In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the Department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions,” considering the seriousness of a crime and its impact on the community, Sessions told prosecutors in a one-page memo.
While Sessions, a longtime marijuana foe, has been carrying out a Justice Department agenda that follows Trump’s top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, this change reflects his own concerns. He railed against marijuana as an Alabama senator and has assailed it as comparable to