Obama era memo offered guidance on marijuana prosecutions.
January 4, 2017 – United States Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, a longtime opponent to cannabis legalization and medical use, is planning to rescind the longstanding Cole Memo which offers guidance to U.S. Attorneys and marijuana businesses on cannabis prosecutions, according to Associated Press and NBC News. The memo was penned by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in August 2013 and has been generally followed by the Justice Department under both the Obama and Trump administrations.
Sessions has made his feelings clear on cannabis over the past few months.
In April 2016, when still a U.S. Senator from Alabama, Sessions made his views clear during a joint hearing on the impact of the new legal adult-use markets on the public. Sessions stated in the hearing, “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
During his confirmation hearings in January 2017, Sessions reiterated that cannabis is a schedule I drug and that its federally illegal. He told Senator Mike Lee (R- UT), “One obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that’s something that’s 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 as effectively as we are able.”
The decision comes just days after California became the most recent state to legalize the adult-use of cannabis, which went into effect on January 1st with substantial fanfare and celebration. Estimates for the California’s legal market are in excess of 7 billion dollars in sales in just a few years. Already eight states and the District of Columbia have approved legal adult-use of cannabis.
The announcement also follows a closed door meeting last month that included only marijuana prohibitionist leaders. In that meeting, Dr. Robert DuPont advised Sessions he thought doctors should drug test everyone. DuPont has authored his own “model” legislation that would have empowered law enforcement to drug test anyone stopped and suspected of driving under the influence, and incarcerating them if they are found to be positive for drugs, including marijuana.
If the ongoing Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is not added to the next spending bill, all cannabis protections that were put in place over the past few years will be undone and the Department of Justice will then have a green light to start prosecutions of cannabis a full green light once again.
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