Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made his stance against cannabis clear. He’s said point blank that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” aims to bring back the failed and antiquated D.A.R.E. program, wants mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, and has threatened time and again to crackdown on America’s fast growing cannabis industry.
However, there are many doubts as to whether Sessions will actually follow through on all this threats. A Justice Department subcommittee, under the DOJ’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, has been tasked with studying cannabis specifically and came up with policy recommendations to support Sessions’ aggressive prohibitionist views.
According to the subcommittee, officials “should evaluate whether to maintain, revise, or rescind” the 2013 Cole Memorandum. Also known as the Cole Memo, it provides guidance on marijuana enforcement, essentially advising to spare state-compliant cannabis businesses from federal prosecution. While the report from the subcommittee hasn’t commit to any particular stance with regard to the Cole Memo, and so far, Sessions seems to be using it as a guide, as opposed to shunning it. He even referred to the memo as “truly valuable in evaluating cases.”
In a recent letter to Governor Jay Inslee of Washington and the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Sessions asked how they plan to address enforcement concerns like cannabis DUI’s, consumption by minors, and interstate smuggling. “Please advice as to how Washington plans to address the findings in the Northwest HIDTA [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area] report, including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors,” he wrote.
Hence it seems that despite the cannabis industry being in violation of federal law, he wants to make sure it’s at least in accordance with local law. Without even shunning the Cole Memo, Sessions could do more than he’s done already to to cause havoc in the cannabis industry. In the six months since he’s taken office, his hyperbolic rhetoric against the cannabis industry has not yet resulted in any large cases, forfeitures, or threatening letters to cannabis industry folk.
Perhaps Sessions has begun to see that taking a hard stance on cannabis and going forward on a full crackdown won’t transpire as he initially envisioned. The industry is fast growing, with a handful of cannabis businesses even mentioned in the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies.
There’s already too much weed for Sessions to successfully attack state-compliant cannabis cultivation facilities and dispensaries; if he did, all that weed would be diverted to the black market and controlled by less credible sources than compliant business folk.
With a majority of the nation having come out in support of marijuana law reform, a crackdown by the Trump administration could be disastrous for the little bit of public support that’s left.