At the end of the 21st century, California legalized marijuana for medicinal use. Since that time, more and more states have been following suit. To date, 29 states—including Illinois—have legalized marijuana for this purpose, and six of these states also permit the recreational use of the drug.
Nonetheless, the sale and consumption of marijuana for any purpose remains prohibited under federal law. This has left growers and distributors in a tight spot—compliant under state law but still at risk of conviction for federal offenses.
To date, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has shown relative leniency regarding this disconnect between the laws by refraining from prosecuting marijuana-related businesses in states where the drug is legal. The previous presidential administration encouraged this type of hands-off modus operandi.
However, a new move by the current administration could throw a wrench in this unspoken ceasefire. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has revoked the previous policy and given the Department of Justice the freedom to more aggressively prosecute workers in the marijuana industry.
For now, marijuana producers and distributors are left trying to decide what the implications of this action will be on their livelihoods. Should they expect an industry crackdown, or is the move primarily intended to plant doubt in the already unstable nature of their businesses? The actual effects remain unclear.
Opponents have criticized the federal move, claiming it goes against the foundation of the United States and defeats the purpose of having individual, state rights. They claim the order shows disregard for the will of the voters in each state.