U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions created a lot of buzz on Wednesday by claiming marijuana use is “only slightly less awful” than heroin addiction. And yes, that statement defies scientific research and is clearly at odds with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s own understanding of cannabis.
But what didn’t capture many headlines or generate social media buzz was his comment about the Obama-era’s guidance regarding federal interference in state-sanctioned marijuana legalization laws:
“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. I may have some different ideas myself in addition to that, but essentially we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades.”
Sessions added that he “may have some different ideas myself in addition to that” but said that the Justice Department does not have the money, time or resources to assume enforcement responsibilities of marijuana prohibition. “We’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades,” he said.
So is Sessions speaking out of both sides of his mouth? What, exactly, does marijuana legalization stand in the Trump Administration?
Related Story: Sessions Needs To Think Like An Accountant, Not An Attorney
The answer is nobody knows. And if somebody claims to know, they’re lying to you. But it is important to cling to facts instead of attempting to read the tea leaves or focusing on the trial balloons constantly being floated.
It is obvious that Sessions is vehemently opposed to legalizing marijuana and would prefer regressing back to an older era. In his speech Wednesday he also tossed in this antiquated notion:
“We need to say as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just Say No.’ Don’t do it!
Clearly, Americans have moved on from that kind of drug policy. Can Sessions take us back to the Reagan-era drug war days? It is possible. But as of now, there is no policy change.
What Is The Cole Memo?
On August 29, 2013, the Department of Justice published a memorandum which described a new set of priorities for federal prosecutors operating in states which had legalized the medical or other adult use of marijuana. The memorandum was published by James Cole, then the U.S. deputy attorney general. The memo directed prosecutors and law enforcement to focus their priorities on these eight areas:
- Prevent distribution of marijuana to minors
- Prevent marijuana revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels
- Prevent marijuana from moving out of states where it is legal
- Prevent use of state-legal marijuana sales as a cover for illegal activity
- Prevent violence and use of firearms in growing or distributing marijuana
- Prevent drugged driving or exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use
- Prevent growing marijuana on public lands
- Prevent marijuana possession or use on federal property
Sessions appeared to reaffirm that these priorities are ‘valid’ and that he has no immediate plans to scrap the guidelines.
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