JUST IN: Sessions Evades Firm Answer on State Marijuana Laws, Leaves Door Open for Federal Enforcement

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 10, 2017

    marijuana_gavelDuring 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?

    134 responses to “JUST IN: Sessions Evades Firm Answer on State Marijuana Laws, Leaves Door Open for Federal Enforcement”

    1. R says:

      Write your representatives and tell them these nominations aren’t acceptable.

    2. Lin Chi says:

      Remember he was appointed by Trump who is a pragmatic medical supporter. Regardless of his past stance Sessions owes his prestine position

    3. Rick Rosio says:

      Senator Secessions has been a Southern State Drug Warrior all of his professional life, buying into the ” devils cabbage” mantra of the reefer madness era of American politics.
      While he stresses he will enforce the law, it is time we the people must demand and end to this old racist law and demand better of our elected officials who still support this old racist law of oppression. The sick and suffering deserve to have safe access https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4el6EGqcUw and our Veterans have earned the right to use this plant to ease their pain and suffering http://www.veteransforcompassionatecare.org Let us all have hope for common sense to lead the way forward out of prohibition.

    4. Kush King says:

      I don’t see anything that sessions said that would lead me to believe that he changed his stance.He is just like Trump. A liar. I am concerned for our industry.

    5. Mckeddie says:

      The final line of the article states “…he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population…”; this is totally false and that’s A GOOD THING. His job is to enforce federal law and uphold the constitution. That means that despite his personal feelings on cannabis he is obligated to uphold the law. There is a problem still obviously due to the schedule I class so our lawmakers or the DEA have some work to do to bring the law into the 21st century.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s true,, Drug War III was authorized by the voters. We’ll never have federal legalization without electing a majority favorable in Congress. It’s going to be a rough 4 years.. Trump will no doubt pack the courts with judges that make Chris Christie look like Willie Nelson.
        I also expect the Republican Congress to pass a law saying Marijuana can NEVER be rescheduled or legalized federally.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          It’s not funny, but sometimes I have to laugh at the absurdity of the shit prohibitionists say. Before legalization, prohibitionists would say, “If you don’t like the laws, change them.” But once we reached a point where we were actually able to do that, suddenly it became “It’s illegal, and it’s also illegal to legalize it.” Remember the whole Federalist argument?

          We made it legal anyway.

          Now we’re about to go back to “I un-legalize your marijuana; and I re-illegalize marijuana legalization.”

          Yeah, but I’m rubber and you’re glue, and… oh, never mind. This is so stupid and childish! Except these children are about to be President and Attorney General!

          There will be widespread civil disobedience when this shit comes down. People ain’t going to quit smoking marijuana for Trump and Sessions. I say let’s organize and formalize that “disobedience” and shove it in their cracker-ass faces.

    6. Anonymous says:

      OMG he LAUGHED at a question about Marijuana. LAUGHED. People on this site are still crying about Obama laughing off a petition 7 years ago.. You would of thought Obama was proposing something outlandish,, like,, maybe the Death Penalty for Marijuana trafficking or something….

    7. Jean says:

      He will enforce the law as long as there is a law. He said Congress will have to change the law for him not to enforce. HE DOES NOT support the Federal legalization of marijuana. He was merely explaining why he will prosecute these cases when confirmed even in medical cases(only thing he was asked about). A billion dollar industry and the committee asked a few softball questions with no follow-ups. Ridiculous.

    8. Julian says:

      The only thing positive I see is a Republican Senator Lee from Utah grilling Sessions on marijuana, Federalism and states rights. They should have thrown in that Trump defended states rights on the issue of marijuana (even if his word means nothing). This is critical to pressure Sessions on states rights because staynch conservatives like Sessions try to hide behind a cloak of standing up for states rights, say they dont want the federal government interfering in our personal lives, and yet when it comes to marijuana and asset forfeitures Sessions will be all too happy to use Federal law to step all over state law.
      Keep contacting your Senators. Its working.

    9. csaaphill says:

      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.
      This statement scares me.
      Look for the peoples will to be violated!

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        My sentiments as well.

      • Evening Bud says:

        One of the rubs of course, regarding Sessions’ comments about enforcing the law and congress having the ability to change the law on pot legalization is that the GOP is firmly in control of the House. It would be a truly astounding thing if the GOP-controlled House were to vote to legalize.

        I suspect that won’t happen anytime soon; perhaps it will occur sometime after Hell freezes over. These are weird times in which we’re living.

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