In August of 2013, then-Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole issued a series of memoranda to guide the enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
What became known as the Cole Memo signaled a hands-off approach on the part of the Obama administration to federal enforcement of those laws, instead allowing states to decide for themselves how to regulate marijuana.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, sowing confusion about enforcement in states that have legalized recreational marijuana -- states that now include California.
Sessions’ new stance allows federal prosecutors in those states to decide how aggressively to enforce the long-standing federal law prohibiting marijuana, which is still listed -- along with heroin -- as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Schedule II drugs, classified as having a lower abuse potential than marijuana, include cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine.