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W.Va. Delegate From Ohio County Criticizes New Marijuana Policy

WHEELING — West Virginia Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, criticized U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new strict stance on enforcement of federal marijuana laws, calling it a hypocritical attack on states’ rights.

Sessions has rescinded an Obama-era policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, creating new confusion about enforcement and use just three days after recreational marijuana became legal in California.

President Donald Trump’s top law enforcement official announced the change Thursday. Instead of the previous lenient-federal-enforcement policy, Sessions’ new stance will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it.

Fluharty — who supports the legalization of recreational cannabis — criticized the new federal position Thursday. He said, “My opinion is this is a direct attack on states’ rights and the will of the people in states. The same people who tell us they support states’ rights are taking away the decision of many people. … I don’t like any decisions made by public officials that go against the will of the voters.”

The delegate added, “It’s short-sighted and goes against the will of the people and the voters. It’s complete hypocrisy, really.”

He thinks the new policy contradicts Sessions’ and the Trump administration’s previous championing of states’ rights and individual liberties.

On the state level, Fluharty said, “West Virginia should always do what’s in the best interest of its people, not necessarily what the federal government dictates upon us.”

However, Fluharty doesn’t expect any action on recreational marijuana in West Virginia’s 2018 legislative session, which opens Wednesday.

He said, “I don’t see it happening this session, anyway.”

He said consideration of recreational marijuana likely will be delayed until the new state law pertaining to medical cannabis is implemented fully and its impact is assessed. Medical cannabis won’t be available for prescription in West Virginia until July 2019.

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