Sessions, Congress, and State Medical Marijuana Policy

In preparation for the administration’s upcoming war on weed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to publicly disseminate a potentially ominous report sometime this week.

Anticipated to recommend tougher penalties for individuals caught cultivating pot, peddling weed, or getting high, the Sessions-led Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety will try to link today’s violent drug activity to America’s fast-growing cannabis markets.

Due no later than July 27, Session warned the state attorney generals in April of the pending policy change concerning cannabis. Aimed at “reducing violent crime” in our gun loving country, advocates for criminal justice reform fear this week’s memo is little more than subterfuge.

On Sunday, The Hill reported, “DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime.”

Apparently no fan of federalism or states’ rights, Sessions fired off a letter to congressional leaders in May asking for their help. Considered a burden by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the agency wants to sidestep the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that prohibits the DOJ from spending money to interfere with state-approved medical marijuana rights.

Sessions noted, “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

In strong disagreement with Sessions’ assertion, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) offered their own opinions on the topic:

  •      U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy.”
  •      U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): “If you try to start prosecuting marijuana…you create more violence and more danger as well as greater government cost. These policies that he’s doing ultimately go to the core of the safety of our communities… If we can overcome Strom Thurmond’s filibuster against the civil rights bill, we can overcome a U.S. Attorney General who is out of step with history and out of step with his party.”

First reported by Tom Angell on June 12, the tangible consequence of the Sessions request to congressional leaders remains a dark and foreboding question for the industry.

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