AG Sessions Rescinds Obama Marijuana Guidance

By Free Radical

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

In a memo sent to U.S. attorneys on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially rescinded an Obama-era policy that liberalized states’ ability to regulate the marijuana trade.

Sessions, a long-time opponent of marijuana has said that his new directive commands “all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

Though marijuana is illegal under federal law, many states have made it permissible for medicinal or recreational purposes. Seeing the growing conflict, in 2013 Obama called for US attorneys to generally allow businesses that comply with their state laws to continue their operations. Prosecutorial focus would instead be centered on individuals or enterprises that sell drugs to children, are operating with criminal gangs, and conduct business across state lines. It is likely that Obama saw the writing on the wall and a now-powerful marijuana lobby aided in him seeing the light.

Sessions’s new guidance can result in further confusion. Democrats have opposed it- but so have Republicans-particularly those in states that have legalized marijuana. Disappointed, Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner tweeted that the move “directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told (him) prior to his confirmation.”

The lawmaker went on to say that he was “prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”

There are other ways that the memo can backfire. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans, including Republicans, are in favor of some form of legalization. Sessions’ directive can make Congress members who are already vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections even more in jeopardy of losing their seats.

Democrats are likely to point out the contradiction that Republicans generally favor small government and states’ rights. Yet even these time-honored Republican slogans are merely convenient and only used to stop the federal government from preventing policies they are in favor of.

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