Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under heavy criticism – even from within his own Republican Party – for announcing in January that federal prosecutors can decide for themselves whether to press pot cases in the states that have legalized its use, reversing an Obama-era policy in which the federal government mostly turned a blind eye to marijuana (which is still illegal federally) unless it was tied to violent gangs or drug cartels.

“Today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country,” Sessions said.

If you’re panicking about Sessions’s announcement, you might not understand exactly what he’s doing. For one thing, the Drug Enforcement Administration doesn’t have nearly enough resources for a serious crackdown on average marijuana users. Recreational use is legal in six states and the District of Columbia – and sales could also begin in Massachusetts and Maine this year – and three dozen states permit medical use.

And Sessions wasn’t even necessarily directing federal attorneys to go after users to the extent DEA resources permit. He was just opening the door as a practical matter, while sending a strong message nationwide about his well-known and long-standing disapproval of weed, experts say.“I think it is largely a scare tactic where Jeff Sessions is sending a message from his ivory tower to states that have legalized,” Ezekiel Edwards, criminal law reform project director for the ACLU, told me. “It’s his attempt to try to chill progressive drug policy.” -The Washington Post