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US attorney general nominee will not target marijuana businesses

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President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday he disagreed with a decision by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse a policy that eased federal enforcement of marijuana laws, saying it sowed confusion in the marketplace and harmed businesses that had invested money.

“My approach to this would be to not upset settled expectations,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee in his confirmation hearing, adding that if confirmed, he will “not go after companies” that had relied on the Obama-era guidance that Sessions later rescinded.

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Barr’s comments are likely to bring some relief to burgeoning marijuana economies in states like California, which were thrown for a loop last year when Sessions abruptly withdrew guidance written in 2013 by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

That guidance, known as the “Cole Memo,” still recognized marijuana as a “dangerous drug” that is illegal under federal law. However, it instructed prosecutors not to prioritize enforcing federal marijuana laws in states or localities that authorized various uses of the drug and effectively regulate and police it.

Session’s abrupt announcement last January caught banks off guard about how they could continue doing business with marijuana growers and sellers, prompting many to flood the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) with phone calls seeking guidance.

FinCEN had previously released its own parallel guidance on how banks could do business with the cannabis industry without running afoul of federal anti-money laundering rules.

Reuters reported a year ago that the Justice Department did not alert FinCEN about its change to the marijuana policy before it was announced.

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Sessions was a staunch marijuana opponent, and once said in a speech that he believed it was helping fuel the opioid crisis by serving as a gateway drug.

Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he personally opposes pot, but felt the best long-term solution to addressing disparate state and federal rules was for Congress to come up with a plan.

“I think it’s a mistake to back off on marijuana,” he said.

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“However, if we want a federal approach, if we want states to have their own laws, then let’s get there,” Barr said.

Asked about Barr’s comments, Saphira Galoob, a federal cannabis lobbyist, said, “It is a positive sign that … Barr recognizes and acknowledges the country’s will for a regulated cannabis marketplace – and that a majority of Americans clearly support respecting states and protecting patients.”

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘I demand to speak!’ Republican bursts into anger over Adam Schiff’s closing remarks

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Republican Rep. Mike Conaway (TX) was not pleased that House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) got the last word at the second public impeachment hearing on Friday.

During his closing remarks, Schiff said Trump had engaged in "an effort to coerce, condition or bribe a foreign country into doing [his] dirty work."

"The fact that they failed in this solicitation of bribery doesn’t make it any less bribery. Doesn’t make it any less immoral or corrupt. It just means it was unsuccessful. And to that we owe other dedicated public servants who blew the whistle. Had they not blown the whistle we wouldn’t be here and I think it is appalling that my colleagues continue to want to out this whistleblower so that he or she can be punished by this president," Schiff said.

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‘I’m sorry — is there a question there?’ Yovanovitch snaps back at Jim Jordan’s jumbled posturing

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As questioning of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch resumed on the second day of the House's public hearing in their impeachment inquiry, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) tried to suggest that there was a culture of anti-Trump sentiment amongst elements of the Ukrainian government and its US envoys.

Jordan then questioned Yovanovitch as to why she didn't try to intervene to make the environment less politicized.

"One of the things we've heard so much over the last six weeks in depositions, and frankly in the hearing on Wednesday, is how important bipartisan support is for Ukraine," Jordan said addressing Yovanovitch. "Democrats and Republicans agree they want to help Ukraine, in fact, [Ambassador Bill Taylor] said, 'Ukraine's most strategic asset is this bipartisan support...'"

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Trump ‘blew up’ Republicans’ Yovanovitch strategy with bone-headed tweet: Former GOP House Intel chair

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Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who once served as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, shredded President Donald Trump for his widely panned decision to tweet out smears of former American ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

When asked by CNN's Jake Tapper on Friday what he made of the Yovanovitch hearing so far, Rogers didn't mince words about the president's behavior.

"I think the president blew up any Republican plan to treat the witness with respect when he tweeted out this morning," he said. "So I think that kind of screwed up their rhythm a little bit."

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