Under U.S. law, marijuana possession and distribution remains illegal, but even after Attorney General-nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions‘ first the day of Senate confirmation hearings some still question how the senator would enforce that law if confirmed.
Vermont-Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy pressed Sessions about the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws, as some 65 million Americans now live in states that authorize adult recreational use.
“I believe your own state of Alabama permits the use of a derivative of marijuana known as CBD oil, legal in Alabama, illegal under federal law,” said Leahy. “If you are confirmed as the nation’s chief law enforcement official, and you know that we have very, very limited federal resources — in fact, we spend about a third of our budget now just to keep the prisons open because of mandatory minimums and whatnot — would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people who are using marijuana in accordance with their state laws, even though it might violate federal law?”
“I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law,” said Sessions. “But, absolutely, it’s a problem of resources for the federal government.
In response to Republican Sen. Mike Lee from Utah, Sessions added, “It’s not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we’re able.”
Sessions’ remarks garnered mixed reviews among marijuana legalization proponents, among them Nate Bradley, Executive Director of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA)
“Despite Session’s comments about enforcing federal laws, we expect the Trump Administration will make good on its commitment to states’ rights,” Bradley said. “Just this morning, when asked about medical cannabis, the administration’s Press Secretary reaffirmed that Trump’s entire cabinet, including Sessions, will be “implementing a Trump agenda,” and that Senator Sessions is “well aware of that.”
Isaac Dietrich, CEO of MassRoots, worried about Sessions’ stance from another angle — jobs.
”If Senator Sessions goes after the regulated cannabis industry, he will destroy tens of thousands of jobs, shut down hundreds of small businesses and take away millions of dollars from our schools,” Dietrich explained. “Hopefully the Trump Administration supports states’ rights on cannabis legalization, despite Senator Sessions’ personal views.”
Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) believes, Sessions’ comments were troubling.
“After finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions’ plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday,” Altieri said in a statement. “If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states. If Sessions wants to be an attorney general for all Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention.”