US Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted over the weekend that the Department of Justice simply can’t enforce the federal government’s marijuana prohibition even if he was so inclined.
Sessions clarified his murky position just two months after his Justice Department’s announced that it was rescinding an Obama-era policy that restrained federal law enforcement authorities from interfering with state cannabis laws.
“We’re not going to be able, even if we desired, to take over state enforcement of routine cases that might occur,” Sessions acknowledged. “Federal agents are highly paid, highly trained, and they work on cases involving cartels, international organizations, major distribution networks, large amounts of cash. And they deal with criminal organizations, RICO-type cases. And we’re not out there prosecuting those cases every day.”
Sessions said the Justice Department will focus on drug gangs and major illicit operations. Saturday’s comments appear at odds with the January policy change, which gave the US Attorney’s office the power to prosecute individuals for marijuana crimes, including possession.
“I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States law,” Sessions said, during a Q&A session at Georgetown University. Federal prosecutors “haven’t been working small marijuana cases before, they are not going to be working them now.”
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According to the Associated Press:
Of particular interest are problems that federal authorities have tried for years to tackle, like illegal marijuana-growing operations on national parklands and gangs that peddle pot along with more harmful drugs. Some law enforcement officials in pot-legal states argue the legal trade has caused unintended problems like black-market marijuana growing and dealing by people who don’t even try to conform to the legal framework.
“Those are the kinds of things each one of those US attorneys will decide how to handle,” Sessions said.
Sessions’ comments may have intended to clarify federal cannabis policy, but many industry insiders are scratching their heads wondering what the DOJ policy actually is.