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Marijuana: Feds intrude onto states' rights

Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to allow federal prosecution of marijuana laws in states that have legalized it will create confusion in law enforcement and represents an unnecessary challenge to states' rights.

Sessions rescinded an Obama administration directive for federal prosecutors to not prosecute marijuana sales in states that have legalized its use. They were still authorized to prosecute cases where the drug was shipped across state lines to be sold in a state where it was illegal.

While Sessions rescinded that directive, he left the decision to prosecute up to individual U.S. attorneys in each state. Those attorneys are to make judgments about marijuana sales as they would other crimes — assessing the extent of the problem and the threats to public safety.

Leaving the decision to prosecute up to U.S. attorneys is almost worse than imposing a requirement that cases be prosecuted. Federal prosecution will be uneven and unfair when one state is targeted and another is not at the whim of U.S. attorneys.

Already, Sessions is running into resistance from members of his own party. GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has threatened to fight the directive, saying the people in his state voted to approve marijuana for recreational use and the new rule has "trampled on the will of the voters."

Gardner said he was prepared to take any steps necessary to thwart the new policy, including holding up Senate confirmation of Justice Department nominees.

We can't imagine how other "states' rights" conservatives will be able to swallow the Sessions directive.

The policy also puts U.S. attorneys in the middle of a legal battle most would rather not fight because they have better things to do, like prosecuting gangs and gun violence. Few will have time or inclination to prosecute marijuana users and sellers, especially when they are involved in an activity deemed legal by the states.

Legalizing marijuana may actually reduce crime by reducing the black market for it that would likely involve gangs and others controlling the supply. California is expecting $1 billion a year in taxes from legalized marijuana sales.

Decisions on making marijuana legal should be left to states. There is no place for federal government intrusion that will deplete already scarce law enforcement resources.—Mankato Free Press