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Marijuana is currently legal for adult use in nine states – Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, and the District of Columbia. Over half of the states in the country currently have some sort of medical program including Florida, Montana, Hawaii, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. The legal cannabis industry is estimated to be worth roughly 6.7 billion dollars, and may increase to $40 billion by 2021. (Just for comparison, annual box office revenue in the United States hovers around $10 billion.) California’s state-industry is expected to bring in $2.7 billion alone in 2018. It’s easy to see that marijuana is the next great American industry.

Despite the overwhelming financial promise of the industry, marijuana remains a Schedule-I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Even in those states in which the use and possession of marijuana has been legalized, it remains a clear violation of federal law. Under President Obama, marijuana businesses were assured via the Cole Memo that there would be no federal prosecutions for operators strictly adhering to relevant state law. On January 5, 2018 Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, thus exposing a multi-billion dollar industry to prosecution. U.S. Attorneys in states that have medical and or adult use regulations are now authorized to use their prosecutorial discretion in determining whether to enforce the federal prohibition on cannabis. To date, the overwhelming majority of U.S. Attorneys in states with medical and adult use programs have indicated that the rescission of the Cole memo will not affect how they approach federal enforcement in their respective state.

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