JUST IN: Sessions Evades Firm Answer on State Marijuana Laws, Leaves Door Open for Federal EnforcementJanuary 10, 2017
During his confirmation for the position of Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions failed to give a straight answer with regard to how the Justice Department should respond to states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.
The Alabama Senator was questioned by both Sens. Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) with respect to whether the principles of federalism ought to apply to state marijuana laws.
Senator Leahy: “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people using marijuana in accordance with state law even though it might violate federal law?”
Senator Sessions: “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy, but absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized, at least in some fashion marijuana, some parts of marijuana.”
Senator Leahy: “Do you agree with those guidelines?”
Senator Sessions: “I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases, but fundamentally the criticism I think that is legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgment on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine I know it wont be an easy decision but i will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”
Senator Leahy: “The reason I mention this, is because you have some very strong views, you even mandated the death penalty for second offense on drug trafficking, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are of course unconstitutional.”
Senator Sessions: “Well I’m not sure under what circumstances i said that, but I don’t think…”
Senator Leahy: “Would you say it‘s not your view today?”
Senator Sessions: “(laughs) It is not my view today.”
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) followed up with questions regarding how marijuana policy factors into federalism and asked if the way the Obama Administration has handled marijuana laws created any issues with separation of powers and states rights. Sessions replied that, “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer Congress should pass a law to change the rule, it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”
So, after finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.
Clearly, the battle is just beginning to protect state legalization and medical marijuana laws. Can you contribute today to help us keep up our federal political actions and advance our efforts for state-level law reform?
We have some dire news to share. This morning, President-Elect Trump announced his pick for Attorney General and it couldn’t be much worse for the marijuana law reform movement and our recent legalization victories.
Trump’s pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is a militant prohibitionist. We could go into great detail how Senator Sessions has been an outspoken opponent against reform, but in this case his rhetoric is so off the wall…we’ll let his past statements speak for themselves:
“You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana … you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
“It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”
His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
Senator Sessions is clearly out in the deep end when it comes to issues of marijuana policy and he stands diametrically opposed to the majority of Americans who favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This could foreshadow some very bad things for the eight states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and in the 29 states with with medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores.
We must be ready to fight back. We must be ready to mobilize in defense of all of our hard fought victories. We already have our opponents calling for a recount in Maine and prohibitionists in Massachusetts working to gut core provisions like home cultivation from their state’s initiative. With an assist from a newly minted prohibitionist Attorney General, things might get worse before they get better.
Help us send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state marijuana programs and we want to move towards descheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states.
Many wondered just what the exact effects of passing a marijuana legalization law would be. Some speculated no good would come of passing a state law while it is still in conflict with federal law. Now that we are a few weeks out from passing the two very first marijuana legalization measures in this country, we are beginning to have answers to these questions.
In addition to the legalization of personal possession (and cultivation of 6 plants in Colorado) that is set to go into effect on December 6th in Washington and no later than the first week of January in Colorado, we are beginning to see more positive benefits from the success of these two initiatives. Last week, two of the largest counties in Washington State, King and Pierce Counties, dismissed all pending marijuana possession cases. Clark County dismissed its cases in the days that followed. This week, Boulder County in Colorado dismissed all their pending cases and Spokane is preparing to dismiss many of theirs. It is likely that this trend will continue as we move forward and further counties in both states will also dismiss any of their pending marijuana possession cases.
So, what is the immediate result of the legalization votes on November 6th? Hundreds people will now avoid being tagged with permanent criminal records, will no longer have to appear in court and lose money and time defending themselves for a minor marijuana charge, will no longer have trouble finding employment because of a possession conviction on their record, and will no longer have to spend the mandatory 24 hours in jail that was mandated by Washington State law prior to the passage of I-502. These citizens are simply the first to benefit, there will now be tens of thousands of Americans in Colorado and Washington who won’t have to feel like criminals, pay fines, or serve jail time for the non-violent act of recreationally consuming cannabis.
And, by the way, the rest of the country is taking notice. If you haven’t heard, Rhode Island and Maine will be introducing legalization measures into their state legislatures today.
Just in from Denver 9news, more counties are stopping enforcement of marijuana possession in light of Amendment 64 and are considering dropping pending cases.
In Denver, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office confirmed they don’t anticipate any new charges will be filed for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for anyone 21 and older, effective immediately. This is provided it is the only offense that would warrant a citation.
Additionally, the approximately 70 pending marijuana possession of less than on ounce cases in Denver will be individually reviewed to determine if charges will be dropped.
According to Denver District Attorney Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough, if the possession charge is combined with other charges, the case will most likely not be dismissed.
In Grand Junction, police have already been told to stop issuing ounce-or-less marijuana tickets, according to police documents obtained by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
Routt County District Attorney Brett Barkey says he plans to meet with senior staff members Thursday to decide whether to proceed with prosecuting petty marijuana cases that are pending in the courts.