California recreational marijuana sales begin as Trump administration toughens laws

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday reversed official policy that had tolerated the growing state-based movement to legalize marijuana sales, just three days after California formally permitted recreational use of the drug.

Announcing a “return to the rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded five key memos issued by the administration of president Barack Obama that discouraged enforcement of federal laws, which still classify marijuana as a dangerous narcotic like heroin.

That set up a potential clash with the eight US states that have moved ahead to legalize pot sales, if government prosecutors decide to begin enforcing the federal prohibition on marijuana.

Six states now allow the sale and use of recreational pot: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, and California.

Two others, Massachusetts and Maine, have taken steps to permit sales beginning later this year. (AFP)

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California recreational marijuana sales begin

Eron Silverstein, 51, (R) shops for marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A woman holds marijuana for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Customers line up outside MedMen on the first day of recreational marijuana sales, Jan. 2, 2018 in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo: Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Cannabis honey products rest on display in at the MedMen dispensary for recreational marijuana purchase in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Eugene Garcia/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Green Pearl Organics dispensary owner Nicole Salisbury inspects drying marijuana on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California, Jan. 1, 2018 at the Green Pearl Organics marijuana dispensary in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A customer purchases marijuana at Harborside marijuana dispensary, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (Photo: Mathew Sumner/AP)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A lighted sign advertises deals at Harborside marijuana dispensary, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (Photo: Mathew Sumner/AP)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A customer smells a cannabis product at MedMen, one of the two Los Angeles area pot shops that began selling marijuana for recreational use under the new California marijuana law today, on Jan. 2, 2018 in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Cannabis products for pets are displayed at MedMen, one of the two Los Angeles area pot shops that began selling marijuana for recreational use under the new California marijuana law today, on Jan. 2, 2018 in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A customer buys cannabis products at MedMen, one of the two Los Angeles area pot shops that began selling marijuana for recreational use under the new California marijuana law today, on Jan. 2, 2018 in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

New Year’s Day is the first day of the legalization of recreational marijuana sales in California. Cathedral City Collective Care in Riverside County got permission to begin selling pot at midnight on New Year’s Eve starting at 12:01am. The owner Nick Huges wanted to be the first in the state to sell recreationally. (Photo: Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Marijuana products are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

An employee finds marijuana for a customer at Harborside, one of California’s largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 1, 2018. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Recreational marijuana is displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A budtender displays marijuana “wax,” a concentrated form of marijuana, on the first day of legal recreation cannabis sales in California, Jan. 1, 2018 at the Green Pearl Organics marijuana dispensary in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Different types of marijuana sit on display at Harborside marijuana dispensary, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (Photo: Mathew Sumner/AP)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A customer peers at different marijuana strains in a glass case at Harborside, one of California’s largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 1, 2018. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Recreational marijuana is displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

An employee fulfills a marijuana order for a customer at Harborside, one of California’s largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 1, 2018. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Recreational marijuana cookies are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A customer browses screens displaying recreational marijuana products for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood,Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

Marijuana plants are for sale at Harborside marijuana dispensary, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (Photo: Mathew Sumner/AP)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

A customer walks out of the MedMen store with recreational marijuana in West Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 2, 2018. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

California recreational marijuana sales begin

People wait in line at Harborside, one of California’s largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 1, 2018. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)