Sessions pushes tougher line on marijuana
By JOSH GERSTEIN 02/27/17 06:33 PM EST http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/02/jeff-sessions-marijuana-235461
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, long an outspoken opponent of drug legalization, is signaling he will continue to toe a tough line against marijuana as the nation's top lawman even though a growing number of states are moving to legalize or decriminalize pot.
"Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot," Sessions said during an exchange with reporters at the Justice Department. "I believe it's an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago."
"We're seeing real violence around that," Sessions said. "Experts are telling me there's more violence around marijuana than one would think and there's big money involved."
Sessions spoke sympathetically about the state of Nebraska's filing of a lawsuit to block the flow of marijuana from Colorado, which voted to legalize pot in 2012 and began allowing commercial production in 2014.
"I'm definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana," he said. "States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."
In 2013, under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department announced that it would not directly challenge state marijuana legalization laws and would take a narrower role enforcing federal law against pot sales in states where the drug was legalized.
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A series of guidelines, widely referred to as the Cole memo after Deputy Attorney General James Cole, said federal enforcement and prosecution efforts would focus on preventing drug-related violence, as well as stopping distribution to minors, weeding out gang involvement and blocking marijuana from being transported to states where it remains illegal.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week he expects the Trump administration to seek "greater enforcement" of federal laws against marijuana. However, he said he did not expect an impact on medical marijuana use. He did not say how authorities would differentiate, particularly in states where both medical and recreational use is legal.
Sessions has not said whether he will revise the Cole memo or step up enforcement in states where pot is legal or decriminalized, but he confirmed Monday that the policy is under review.
"Most states have some limits on it and, already, people are violating those limits," the attorney general said. "We're going to look at it. ... and try to adopt responsible policies."
Josh Gerstein is a senior reporter for POLITICO.