AG Sessions signals no major federal marijuana crackdown

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday again criticized marijuana while also signaling that the Department of Justice under his leadership won’t launch a wide-ranging crackdown on cannabis businesses.

Speaking with reporters after a speech in Virginia, Sessions said “much of” the 2013 Cole Memo – which laid the groundwork for the adult-use marijuana industry as it exists today in the United States – is “valid.” But he also suggested some additional federal guidelines may be coming from the U.S. Department of Justice.

In his comments, Sessions indicated that the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration probably won’t take widespread action against the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states, and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,” Sessions said in response to a question about whether his DOJ will sue states that have legalized rec, or if the department will prosecute any adult-use businesses.

“I may have some different ideas myself in addition to that,” Sessions said, “but essentially, we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that police and sheriffs have been doing for decades.”

Cannabis businesses can take away two things from Sessions’ remarks:

  • The Trump administration may issue a stricter version of the Cole Memo, but those guidelines will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future.
  • The DOJ almost certainly won’t be starting a war on the cannabis industry.

The bottom line, it seems, is that business will likely continue largely uninterrupted for the U.S. marijuana trade.

Sessions also said he believes medical marijuana “has been hyped, maybe too much,” but he agreed there could be medical benefits to be had from cannabis.

“I acknowledge that,” Sessions said. “But if you … smoke marijuana, for example, where you have no idea how much THC you’re getting is probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount. So forgive me if I’m a bit dubious about that.”

The attorney general also reiterated his personal opposition to cannabis legalization in general.

He also echoed the same message during a speech earlier in the day Wednesday.

“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” Sessions said. “I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”