WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - The still budding marijuana industry may now be rooted in even shakier ground.
On Thursday, the Department of Justice issued new guidance to United States attorneys reminding them marijuana is federally illegal.
Yet, decisions to pursue cases remain with prosecutors, cloaking the business in more confusion. Sadie Gurman of the Associated Press broke the story.
"I think its hard to say at this point how each U.S. attorney is going to view this very short memo from the attorney general today," Gurman said.
The move contradicts what then-candidate Donald Trump told our sister station KUSA in Denver, where marijuana is legal, back in 2016.
"I think it's up to the states, yeah. I'm a states person," Trump said. "I think it should be up to the states, absolutely."
Matt Schweich of the Marijuana Policy Project called Thursday's memo a bad decision.
"I think this is going to send a chill to a certain degree, but it remains to be seen what this is going to entail," he said.
DOJ's guidance doesn't specify a difference between medical and recreational marijuana.
Maryland and D.C. both allow medical sales, which are protected by a Congressional amendment. It's a murkier area for D.C., which also allows residents to grow recreational marijuana at home.
"The Justice Department said it would follow the law, which right now includes protections that prohibit Justice Department officials from using public funds to go after the medical marijuana industry," Gurman said. "But, the officials we talked to wouldn't preclude a medical marijuana prosecution."
The amendment Gurman referenced is called the Rohrabacher-Furr Amendment. The rule bans federal prosecutors from using taxpayer money to target medical marijuana.
Congress must renew the amendment each fiscal year. If lawmakers let the amendment lapse, that would signal a seismic change in how officials view clashing state and federal laws.
It's big business that many worry could go up in smoke.
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