During a press conference in Boston earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his hostility to marijuana reform and doubled down yet again on his tired, fear-mongering talking point regarding it being sold at every street corner.
“Personally my view is that the American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner,” said Sessions.
He seems to tiptoe the line in a response to a reporter’s question, saying, “but states have a right to set their own laws and will do so,” but concluded his comments by stating “but we’ll follow the federal law,” – meaning complete prohibition and criminalization.
Earlier this year, Sessions had rescinded an Obama-era guidance policy, known as The Cole Memo, which directed the Department of Justice’s hands-off policy towards state-legal cannabis regulatory programs, licensed businesses, and their consumers.
During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March of 2017, Jeff Sessions said, “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”
Additionally in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo. “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”
Currently, medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. This amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when over two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective for Attorney General Sessions to take this step. It is time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.
If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels, while forcing consumers to go back to the black market.