Marijuana Out of Session?

Jeff Sessions is on a mission to eradicate marijuana in the US


Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Maya Glaser, Current Events Correspondent

Earlier this week, Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General of the United States, called for a change in the policies in the legalization of marijuana. As it stands, the federal government still views the substance as illegal, but under the Cole Memo released during the Obama Administration in 2013, states retain the right to decide whether they want to legalize it – either as recreational, medical, or both. Currently, as a result of the Cole Memo, named after the Deputy Attorney General James Cole from the Obama Administration, the federal government is not allowed to prosecute states that have legalized marijuana. The memo led the way from states to pave their own path in their marijuana laws, starting with the states of Washington and Colorado. On 1/4 however, Sessions wishes to return to abiding strictly to the federal law on the issue and to enforce the federal law over the laws of the states.

As of January of 2017, 29 states have legalized marijuana usage in the medical sense, and 6 states, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, and California in addition to Washington DC have legalized marijuana usage in the recreation sense. The decision to treat marijuana policies similarly to alcohol policies, which are regulated by state governments, has created a multi-billion dollar industry in just a few years.

People in favor of the policy change argue that the drug has never been beneficial to its users, especially in the recreational sense, and that the decisions made by the Obama policy were a mistake. Sessions has likened marijuana to heroin, and considers the drug to be a serious harm to the people of the United States. Sessions also claims that he is attempting to reduce growing drug crime through this policy change. Sessions has been opposed to marijuana legalization since he was a Senator for Alabama before becoming Attorney General. President Trump, however, has previously claimed that he will not interfere with marijuana policies already in place, making Senate members question Sessions’ claim that he got approval from the President. Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic Representative from Oregon, says, “One wonders if Trump was consulted ― it is Jeff Sessions after all ― because this would violate his campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws.”

Many against the proposed policy change believe that drug crime will only increase if the marijuana industry returns to an unlawful one, as all marijuana would be returned to its old home on the black market. Sessions’ new proposition is not favored by the majority of Americans, as support for the legalization of the drug has reached 64% nationwide. Many say that change is an insult to the democratic process because it takes away states’ rights to choose policies for themselves. With this said, it will ultimately be up to state attorneys to decide to accept the policy or not. States like Colorado will probably not see too much change because of the state attorney.

State Attorney Bob Troyer of Colorado says on the topic, “his [Troyer] office wouldn’t change its priorities with the new guidance, and would continue to focus ‘in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state.’” Several government members, both state and federal levels, are looking to meet with Sessions in the coming weeks to discuss the policy changes and negotiate with him.

Sessions’ change to the marijuana policy could be harmful or helpful. While the potential for the black market to get worse exists, so does the possibility that drug problems could get better. The fear, however, that the memo will ruin a multi-billion dollar industry and increase crime still remains in a majority of Americans. Ultimately, state attorneys will have to make the choice whether or not to return to federal policy; time will tell what the future of cannabis is in the United States.



Sources Used: