Sessions continues to attempt his hard line on marijuana

Henrietta Brewer
June 16, 2017

Lost in all the reports of his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was news that last month U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Congress to give him broad authority to crack down on medical marijuana cultivators and distributors acting in accordance with state laws.

Sessions cited a "historic drug epidemic" and "potentially long-term uptick in violent crime" in his letter.

"The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and risky drug traffickers who threaten American lives", he writes as justification for allowing the DOJ to use their own discretion in funding prosecutions.


The reasoning expressed by Sessions is that there is a "historic drug epidemic" and this is why he should be able to crackdown on the medical marijuana industry to remedy the situation. "It's past time for Congress to stand up to this administration and begin to responsibly address our outdated federal marijuana laws".

The Cole Memo, is a Justice Department memorandum, authored by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant's production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines. But Sessions has made clear he doesn't buy the research or the premise, saying earlier this year that he was "astonished" to hear people talk of marijuana as a means of addressing the opioid epidemic, opining that heroin users would just be trading one "life-wrecking dependency" for another that's "only slightly less bad".

Wolf's letter came as a response to a letter from Sessions.


If the Sessions-led Justice Department takes a similar tactic as the previous administration, it will certainly be hearing from Rohrabacher and Farr.

The department had challenged interpretations of the law, limiting its power during the tenure of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but backed off an appeal in California previous year after losing in federal court.

The amendment is often referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, although it is now co-written by Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, and Earl Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat. Medical marijuana is incredibly popular with voters overall. A Quinnipiac poll conducted in April found that it was supported by 94 percent of the public. Almost three-quarters of voters said they disapprove of the government enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized it either medically or recreationally.


"If you seek to further disrupt our ability to establish a legal way to deliver relief of medical marijuana to our citizens, I will ask the Attorney General of Pennsylvania to take legal action to protect our residents and state sovereignty", Wolf warned. But Sessions's letter, with its explicit appeal to allow the Justice Department to go after medical marijuana providers, appears to undermine that support. Either Congress will renew it, as it has done for the past three years, or lawmakers will side with Sessions and leave the medical marijuana industry out in the cold.

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