The U.S. Senate voted 54-45 on Thursday to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, installing a Justice Department veteran as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
During his confirmation hearings, Barr – who previously served as attorney general from 1991-1993 and was known for his tough approach to drug offenders – said he would “not go after” state-legal cannabis businesses if confirmed as the head of the Department of Justice.
However, Barr also said he still supports marijuana prohibition at the federal level, and called the current legal situation – with states defying the federal illegality of cannabis – “untenable.”
Whether Barr chooses a different approach to the cannabis industry than his anti-marijuana predecessor, Jeff Sessions, remains to be seen.
Barr would be able to prosecute recreational marijuana businesses across the country. But the Joyce Amendment – formerly known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment – prohibits the DOJ from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana companies.
In November, President Donald Trump fired Sessions and installed Matthew Whittaker as a temporary replacement. Whittaker had been Sessions’ chief of staff.