As the country legalizes marijuana state by state, the Trump administration seems to be dead-set on preserving the current federal marijuana law that classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, thereby making it illegal on the federal level.
Marijuana is legal in Washington, D.C. and eight states, with 30 states now having some form of legalized medical marijuana available. Yet, the United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has ended the policy protecting legal marijuana states against federal prosecution by rescinding the Cole Memo, according to the Washington Post.
The Cole Memo was written in 2013 by former US Attorney General James M. Cole and is a Department of Justice memorandum to US Attorneys advising law enforcement and federal prosecutors to de-prioritize marijuana crimes and leave regulation to the states. Sessions made the announcement rescinding the federal marijuana law on Jan. 4.
Republicans and Democrats Angered by the Announcement
Both Democrats and Republicans were upset by the decision to rescind the Obama protections. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) accused Sessions of outright lying to him regarding his intentions by rescinding the Cole Memo, saying that the announcement “directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me.”
He added that he would block the Department of Justice nominees until Sessions keeps his commitment to the Department of Justice not to interfere in state law.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also expressed her disappointment with the decision to rescind the Obama protection. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said marijuana has created at least 19,000 jobs and is valuable for the state’s economy.
Sessions also told the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on November 14 that the Obama federal protection would stand.
Many Democrats, as well as Republicans, were angered by the announcement, citing Trump’s promise not to allow the federal government to interfere with state laws. With legal marijuana sales expected to be more than $24 billion by 2020, the tide is quickly turning as Republican politicians realize the enormous financial benefits of legalization.
Sessions’ Previous Comments About Weed
Sessions has previously voiced his negative views on marijuana, as well as his bigotry, commenting that he was fond of the KKK until he learned about their marijuana consumption (he later insisted that this was a joke). Sessions has also stated that he believes good people don’t smoke marijuana.
Trump’s actual opinion on marijuana is unknown; however, Trump is apparently obsessed with destroying the legacy of his predecessor, regardless of the enormous consequences to the country and environment. Trump’s obsession with dismantling everything that President Obama accomplished has now led him to break his campaign promise regarding federal intrusion.
The Department of Justice has not yet revealed how aggressively they will target legal marijuana businesses in states with legalized weed.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated that by rescinding the Cole Memo, Sessions only gave US attorneys the ability to prosecute illegal cultivators and large distributors. She added that it did not mean that Trump was going back on his campaign promise.
At least 64 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis and changing the federal marijuana law. Despite the potential that marijuana has benefits, marijuana is still scheduled as a Schedule I drug.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has the authority to reschedule cannabis, but it seems, for the moment at least, his intentions are quite different.