Jeff Sessions has spoken out about marijuana for the first time since becoming as America's 84th attorney general, but his mixed messages on the issue have made the Trump Administration's cannabis stance murkier than ever. In fact, Sessions actually justified cannabis legalization while trying to defend prohibition.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer caused a furor in the cannabis community by suggesting that the Department of Justice - headed by Sessions - would crack down on states that have legalized recreational marijuana. During a press briefing, Spicer told reporters to "expect greater enforcement" of federal cannabis prohibition under the Trump Administration. He added that the new regime would respect state laws concerning medical marijuana, even though it is also prohibited by the federal government.
However, Sessions hasn't specified what - if any - action he and the DOJ will take toward the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana or the eight states that have also legalized recreational use. “I am definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” Sessions told reporters yesterday. “But states, they can pass the laws they choose."
That message was consistent with President Trump's campaign pledge to let individual states decide their own cannabis laws. But then Sessions added, "I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”
So right now it's anyone's guess whether he will respect states' rights or enforce prohibition.
The new attorney general's position became even more confusing when he tried to explain his opposition to legalization. "Experts are telling me there's more violence around marijuana than one would think," Sessions said. "You can't sue somebody for a drug debt. The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that."
Unless, of course, you remove the criminal element by legalizing and regulating marijuana like the tobacco and alcohol industries so that people can file lawsuits over debts. Sessions basically pointed out why prohibition doesn't work, yet he remains committed to it. Meanwhile, a Denver ABC affiliate has reported that that recent studies do not show a correlation between cannabis legalization and violent crime.
Banner image: Senator Sessions and Indiana Governor/Republican Vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence at an immigration policy speech in Phoenix, Arizona in August 2016 (wikpedia.org)