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Becerra said he has reached out to the four USA attorneys in California, hoping to discuss the issue, and to seek ways to work together to focus on black-market marijuana operators and people who do not obide by the state's laws, which made recreational marijuana legal this week. Legal marijuana industry could generate $40 billion in economic impact by 2021.

"This drug is unsafe; you can not play with it", said Sessions. He had just arrived in the state, which has embraced legal sales.

Walsh noted that the Department of Justice may have difficulty in enforcing federal laws in states where it is legal.

Many among the new recreational pot proprietors previously operated as medical cannabis dispensaries, under a patchwork of local regulations.

Sessions' memo comes as the second recent blow to the state's medical marijuana industry.

His action, outlined in a one-page memo, drew condemnation from marijuana legalization advocates and politicians in both parties who said it trampled on the rights of voters in states where the drug is now legal, and created uncertainty about how strictly federal drug laws will be enforced. In a memo, he said the federal pot statutes "reflect Congress's determination that marijuana is a unsafe drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime".

Sessions will end policy that allowed legalized marijuana to prosper. "We will evaluate violations of those laws in accordance with our district's federal law enforcement priorities and resources".

Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana, including California, which began sales Monday.

But proprietors, activists and consumers said such words aren't going to shut down the burgeoning marijuana industry. Only three days after California opened its first legal weed dispensary, becoming the latest USA state to trade in kosher cannabis, a massive reversal from the Justice Department has left the burgeoning industry in doubt.

The announcement came three days after California formally launched the world's largest regulated commercial market for recreational marijuana. Those guidelines had finessed the state-federal conflict by saying, in effect, that federal prosecutors wouldn't go after people who complied with state laws, but would instead concentrate on drug cartels, money laundering and other high-priority targets.

A budtender assists a customer at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles in December.

"The most disappointing point about this is that it goes against what over half the states and half the population of the country have voted to support", said Jeffry Paul of Cannabiniers, a Nevada-based manufacturer of cannabis-infused teas and coffee. He equates the drug with heroin, has blamed pot for a rising tide of violence, and has said that medical use of marijuana has been "hyped, maybe too much".

Can I still buy legal weed?

At the stroke of midnight on January 1, California legalized recreational marijuana. In Colorado alone, about 35,000 people work in the legal marijuana industry, which generated more than $226 million in taxes a year ago on a product once sold entirely on the black market.

California-based Terra Tech Corp (OTCQ:TRTC), the largest USA pot company with a US$407mln market cap, was down over 31% to US$0.28 on Thursday. How legalized marijuana is changing one California town. "He clearly and repeatedly pledged that he would respect state marijuana laws if elected".

Seven medical cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco have been given the green light to seek a temporary state license to start selling recreational marijuana beginning Saturday, according to city officials.

From the small town of Shasta Lake just south of OR to San Diego on the Mexican border, the first of about 90 shops licensed by the state opened Monday to customers who previously needed a medical reason OR a dope dealer to score pot.