Federal Marijuana Policy Future Unclear Under Sessions
Sen. Jeff Sessions was more than a little evasive in responding to questions on how he plans to approach marijuana should he become the nation’s next Attorney General. Sessions spoke on the topic at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, not giving any indication either way on how he plans to approach the issue of federal marijuana. Sessions is well known for his reefer madness perspective on marijuana and advocates have been anxiously hoping that he would not be made attorney general. His latest non-committal position on the subject has left marijuana reform supporters hopeful that he will not take a heavy stance against it like previously thought.
“A Problem of Resources”
Sessions, who is a Republican Senator from Alabama, has been extremely vocal in the past about his opposition to marijuana reform. He openly criticized the Obama administration for its relaxed approach in allowing states such as Colorado and Washington to legalize recreational marijuana. When he was asked about how he intends on using federal resources to prosecute people who are in possession of marijuana in states where it is legal, he said “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law. But absolutely it’s a problem of resources for the federal government.” He continued to reiterate that he would do his job in a “fair and just way” adding “it is not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able.”
Americans Want Federal Marijuana Legalization
As of the November 8th election last year, 28 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana and 8 states and D.C. have ended prohibition, legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana. According to the most recent Gallup polls, 60 percent of the country is in favor of fully legalizing marijuana. This means not only does the majority of the country have a legal marijuana industry but the majority, even in states where prohibition still exists, are in favor of marijuana reform. It would be somewhat catastrophic at this point to have the federal government step in to arrest every person using the plant.
State Law vs. Federal Law
Despite the fact that marijuana is safer and healthier than cigarettes, alcohol and prescription medication, it remains illegal on a federal level. The DEA has continued to classify it as a Schedule I illicit substance; as dangerous as heroin and having no medical value. This means regardless of state law, federal marijuana laws ultimately prohibit the plant and make anyone using it a person who is in violation of federal law. The Obama administration worked hard to put laws in place that would prohibit federal interference to people and businesses who were in compliance with state laws. It would be up to the next attorney general to uphold these laws that many worked hard to put in place.
So far, Sessions’ position on federal marijuana laws are ambiguous but advocates are hoping that Sessions follows Trump’s lead on the matter. Trump has said he does not intend to interfere with state laws and if he remains true to this, there is hope for continued progress in the future.