Jeff Sessions has had a busy week. On Monday, the Attorney General of the United States delivered remarks to a meeting of the National Sheriffs’ Association. Most of the attention has been focused (rightly) on a moment when he deviated from his prepared remarks to praise the ‘Anglo-American heritage’ of the sheriff’s office.
Then, he called out ‘one senator’ who was holding up Department of Justice nominees over Sessions’ views on marijuana. This is obviously Colorado senator Cory Gardner.
But another remark got lost in the shuffle, and it’s one that’s equally important. From Sessions’ prepared remarks:
I cannot and will not pretend that a duly enacted law of this country—like the federal ban on marijuana - does not exist. Marijuana is illegal in the United States - even in Colorado, California, and everywhere else in America.
Yikes. As anyone who lives in California or Colorado can tell you, cannabis is very much legal at the state level, even though it’s illegal at the federal level. Does Sessions have federal power to crack down on cannabis?
It’s complicated. The Cole Memo, which states that the DOJ would not intervene with state marijuana markets, was rescinded by Sessions last month. Yet a DOJ subcommittee - the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety - released a report last year advising that Obama-era rules keeping the federal government out of state marijuana laws be continued.
So what will Sessions do? At this point, it’s hard to say. As Vox points out, he could simply sign a new memo to replace the Cole memo. One thing is clear, though: Sessions is hellbent on stifling marijuana legalization, in spite of the will of the states and a majority of Americans.