Sessions: DOJ task force will analyze marijuana enforcement

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a new task force subcommittee that will focus, at least in part, on marijuana enforcement policies.

The subcommittee – part of the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety – will tackle “a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the (Department of Justice’s) overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and policies,” according to a memo sent to U.S. attorneys Wednesday.

The panel is one of several that will report to the Task Force, which will then issue initial recommendations to Sessions by July 27, according to the memo. Different subcommittees will focus on other criminal issues, such as human trafficking, hate crimes and immigration enforcement.

Additionally, the memo hints at the possible further use of asset forfeiture against “criminal organizations.” While that may not explicitly include state-legal recreational marijuana companies that are in violation of federal law, such tactics have been used in the past by anti-cannabis U.S. attorneys.

Sessions has referred to parts of the 2013 Cole Memo as “valid” but has also said he isn’t ready to ignore state marijuana laws that run contrary to federal law.

In addition, he has said the DOJ likely doesn’t have the resources to target every state-licensed rec business in the nation. Medical marijuana companies are currently protected by the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, but the federal statute is set to expire April 28 if it’s not renewed by Congress.

By contrast, President Trump said more than once during the campaign last year that he believes marijuana policy should be left to the states.

All of this suggests ongoing uncertainty for the marijuana industry until the Trump administration decides on how it will approach cannabis.