Jeff Sessions couldn’t stay quiet for long, could he? As marijuana legalization continues on an upward trajectory, with Oklahoma recently legalizing medical marijuana, you can’t imagine Sessions would sit out contently. During a press conference in Massachusetts Thursday, the Attorney General asserted that while states may legalize, the Department of Justice will enforce federal prohibition policies.
“Personally, my view is that the American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner,” Sessions said. “But states have a right to set their own laws and will do so.”
Sessions was in Massachusetts for an unrelated press conference on fraud prosecutions. During the conference, a reporter asked about the federal stance in regard to legalization in Massachusetts. Though voters legalized recreational marijuana two years ago, legal sales have yet to begin, though they are expected later this year.
“We’ll enforce the federal law,” Session said in response to the reporter’s question. “I mean, the federal law remains the law of the United States.”
Sessions’ comments appear to be fangless, however, as a Department of Justice spokesperson clarified to MassLive this wasn’t a change in policy for the Attorney General. Attorney Andrew Lelling, a top federal prosecutor who reports to Sessions, said in a statement that the feds remained focused on prosecutions that would stop the opioid epidemic. Despite Sessions rescinding the Cole Memo—the Obama-era policy that instructed federal prosecutors not to pursue marijuana-related cases in legal states—Lelling said regulators were acting like the policy was still in full effect.
Federal reform also appears on its way. Momentum is building for the STATES Act, which would recognize states’ marijuana laws and make it impossible to prosecute those compliant with their state laws for marijuana-related offenses. Donald Trump voiced support for the bipartisan bill earlier this summer as well.