Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who famously claimed earlier this year that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” dropped a trial balloon on Wednesday that the Department of Justice may crack down on marijuana laws.
Sessions said at a news conference that the department is looking “very hard right now” at a “hands-off” directive from the Obama administration that discourages federal prosecutors from prosecuting marijuana cases in states that allow it for either medical or recreational adult use.
At the press conference, which addressed a range of issues regarding America’s opioid abuse crisis:
“We had meetings yesterday and talked about it at some length. It’s my view that the use of marijuana is detrimental, and we should not give encouragement in any way to it, and it represents a federal violation, which is in the law and it’s subject to being enforced, and our priorities will have to be focused on all the things and challenges we face.
“We’ll be working our way through to a rational policy. But I don’t want to suggest in any way that this department believes that marijuana is harmless and people should not avoid it.”
Sessions took direct aim at the Obama-era “Cole Memo” authored four years ago by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The memorandum essentially directs attorneys in the Justice Department that cannabis use in “jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form … is less likely to threaten federal priorities.”
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Sessions, a longtime drug warrior, has not made a secret of his disdain for this federal guidance and he has waffled when asked to speak directly about his plans regarding the Cole Memo’s future. But he has never wavered in his opinion that cannabis is bad. Earlier this year, he claimed:
“I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”
Before President Donald Trump took office, 29 states had approved the sale of medical marijuana to qualified patients and eight states legalized adult recreational use.