There are concerns that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will get serious about imposing a federal marijuana crackdown after seeing the results of a national pot policy review set to be submitted later this week by the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.
At the beginning of April, Sessions issued a memo calling for the assembly of a special task force charged with unearthing any possible connection between legal weed and increased violent crime. Those recommendations, according to the language of the directive, are to be delivered to Sessions’ desk no later than this Thursday, July 27.
Drug policy experts like Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason Magazine, believe a federal marijuana crackdown is unlikely to happen because it “would contradict Trump’s campaign promises, cause an uproar among state officials across the country, and provoke strong objections from members of Congress who represent states with legal pot.”
Others involved in the arena of criminal justice reform, however, are of the opinion that the task force is about to unleash a pile of anecdotal evidence that could have the power to strengthen Sessions’ argument against allowing the cannabis industry to carry on.
“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime, and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, told The Hill.
“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true,” she added.
Although it might sound paranoid to suggest that the demise of the cannabis trade is on the verge of taking place simply because Sessions ordered a federal marijuana review, the former Alabama senator, who has been known to says things like “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” has given significant reason to believe that some change is on the horizon.
In May, Sessions fired off a letter to congressional leaders asking for the total elimination of a temporary rider that prohibits the Justice Department from spending tax dollars to harass the medical marijuana community.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
If Congress happens to decide in the next couple of months not to include the rider (Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment) in the next federal budget, the medical marijuana industry will, once again, officially become susceptible to investigations, raids and prosecutions.
Many believe that is exactly what the attorney general wants.
Sessions has already revamped policies designed to increase mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and strengthen the civil asset forfeiture program. If the federal marijuana review supports the argument for how statewide legalization has increased violent activity all across the United States, there is very little doubt that the Justice Department will revise and/or eliminate the Obama-era policy that allows states to experiment with legal weed.
During his confirmation hearing, Sessions told a Senate panel that Congress should change federal law if nationwide marijuana enforcement is no longer to be considered a priority.
“I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state and distribution of it an illegal act,” Sessions said back in January. “So if we need to…if that’s something [that] is not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is 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 are able.”
Sessions has maintained since taking over as Trump’s leading law enforcement hammer that he fully intends to impose federal law.