Jeff Sessions, vocal anti-marijuana advocate and current Attorney General of the United States, has recently reassured senators that there will be no imminent crack down on marijuana coming from the federal government. Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently hinted that the Trump Administration is planning to take down state-legalized recreational marijuana industries due to his unsubstantiated claims that recreational cannabis consumption leads to more people becoming addicted to opioids. Sessions, however, has privately reassured many different Republican Senators that his plan is to keep the Obama-era marijuana policies in place.
The Cole & Ogden memos were put into place by the Obama Administration to create a non-interference policy within state legalized cannabis markets. These memos protect recreational and medical industries in states where they have been legalized from being prosecuted by the DEA. Sessions, despite his prior personal statements connecting cannabis with immorality, seemingly plans (for now) to keep these memos in place according to what he has been telling senators.
Sessions apparent conversations explaining he will keep the memos in place have been confirmed by two senators, Rand Paul and Cory Gardner. The senators, from Kentucky and Colorado respectively, have both tied the maintenance of these memos by Sessions to his staunch belief in states' rights and the importance he places on limiting federal governmental power. Gardner, who’s constituents in Colorado are currently benefiting greatly from medical and recreational marijuana legalization, has said he has gotten absolutely no impression from Sessions that there will be any policy changes.
Other senators, however, are being proactive in their approach to Sessions’ potential marijuana policy changes. A handful of senators, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Senator Murkowski from Alaska, wrote a letter to Sessions pledging their support to the non-interference system set up by the Obama Administration, particularly in the recreational industries that appear to be the most vulnerable to change.
In the letter to Sessions, the senators stated, “We respectfully request that you uphold DOJ's existing policy regarding states that have implemented strong and effective regulations for recreational use. It is critical that states continue to implement these laws.” Most of the senators involved in writing the letter are from the eight states that have voted to legalize recreational marijuana and all of the senators, except for Murkowski, are Democrats.
Potential changes are not only an issue for Senators with states which have legalized recreational or medical marijuana in their state, but also for Republican senators who believe staunchly in the importance of states’ rights. If Sessions changes his mind and decides to interfere in states that have legalized internal cannabis industries, it could greatly go against the core Republican ideals that Sessions, and other members of the administration, constantly aim to stay consistent with.
Some crack downs against marijuana could still occur, however, in the form of more work by the DEA against illegal drug cartels. Only time will tell if attorney general Sessions will choose to stick to his word and allow for the continuation of medical and recreational markets without federal government interference, or if he will decide to change his approach.