LANSING — State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) issued a challenge to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in response to Sessions’ recent reversal of federal policies that deferred to state-level marijuana regulation. Rep. Rabhi introduced a resolution Thursday calling on Sessions to respect the will of Michiganders in determining how to regulate marijuana use at the state level. If Sessions refuses to do so, the resolution then calls on the president to replace him.

“The people of Michigan know what’s best for our own state, and we voted overwhelmingly to allow medical marijuana,” Rep. Rabhi said. “We don’t need the federal government to waste taxpayer money and fill our prisons with cancer patients and parents treating their epileptic children.”

Sessions’ latest decision comes as public policy in many states is shifting toward a more tolerant stance on marijuana use. More than half of states have legalized medical marijuana, and nine have legalized recreational use as well.  When voters in Colorado and Washington state chose to legalize recreational marijuana in 2013, the Department of Justice issued a guidance to federal prosecutors. The memo advised them that while marijuana remained illegal under federal law, they should focus enforcement on specific policy areas such as keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors and making sure it was not sold across state lines. As long as state-regulated medical and recreational marijuana programs were successful in controlling those policy outcomes, the Justice Department would not waste resources on interfering and would exercise its traditional deference to state and local law enforcement. Sessions rescinded this guidance memo last week.

In Michigan, voters chose to allow the use of medical marijuana in 2008, and just last year, the Legislature passed laws to allow dispensaries and other medical marijuana businesses to operate in communities that authorize them. Even now, a separate group is working to put the legalization of recreational marijuana on the state ballot in 2018.

“The president has repeatedly said that he thinks marijuana regulation should be left up to the states,” Rep. Rabhi said. “His attorney general needs to recognize the wisdom of that policy instead of pursuing a failed and destructive attempt at prohibition. With Speaker Leonard’s recent statement agreeing that the people of Michigan have the right to create our own marijuana policies, I am looking forward to receiving bipartisan support for this common-sense resolution to defend the will of our state’s voters.”