Despite continuous threats and conniving political moves to crack down on legal weed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been stymied by the chaos and ineptitude of the Trump administration, not to mention rational human beings who view his crackdown as a terrible idea.
This combination has resulted in the lowest recorded levels of federal drug prosecutions than any previous administration at this point in their tenure.
According to new data released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC), the feds prosecuted nine percent fewer drug crimes from February to June of this year compared to the same period last year and more than 20 percent fewer than that period five years ago.
As part of Trump’s obsession to erase all things Obama, his administration has yet to replace 90 out of the 93 states’ attorneys general sacked by Trump in March.
There is also a federal hiring freeze declared by the Trump administration, which has left Jeff Sessions woefully without the tools he needs to reverse this five-year decline in drug prosecutions.
Without Sessions’ own people implementing his tough-on-crime and anti-weed policies on the ground, local lawmakers may still be operating under Obama-era reforms, bringing less cases to the feds for prosecution.
Drug prosecutions have dropped since 2012, following directives from Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder to federal prosecutors not to go after weed in legal states and to understate the quantity of drugs distributed by dealers.
As widely reported, Sessions is furiously, and so far not too successfully, trying to do the opposite. To that end, Sessions issued a directive to prosecutors to pursue drug offenders and smack them with the harshest possible sentences.
He also made a direct plea to Congress in May to overturn medical marijuana protections in states where it is legal. That didn’t go over too well either.
Recently the Senate Appropriations Committee delivered yet another disappointing blow to Sessions by voting to extend protections of state medical marijuana and industrial hemp laws against federal interference.
“For four years people got used to doing things a different way,” said Mark Osler, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit. “Sessions doesn’t have the people on the ground to do the shoving.”
With employees coming and going from the White House, and Sessions being badgered publicly by Trump, it’s no wonder he can’t get anything together.
When asked about the data, per Vice News, the Department of Justice responded in a statement saying it was not able to to vouch for the TRAC methodology, but that Sessions will continue to work on initiatives to provide his Justice Department with “every tool available to aggressively target drug traffickers and others responsible for the unacceptable drug crisis.”
“We know drug trafficking is an inherently violent business,” Sessions said in June. “We have to create a cultural climate that is hostile to drug abuse.”
It’s going to take a lot more than rhetoric from the Justice Department to change federal drug policy across the country.