After a hectic first week of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a motion to forward the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general on to the full Senate.
Just a week ago, most Washington observers considered Sessions a shoo-in for confirmation. But after a spate of executive orders from the Trump administration that have raised legal questions and drawn fire from bipartisan members of congress, senators may give more scrutiny to the president’s nominees.
A staunch advocate of the war on drugs, Sessions remarked last year that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He praised a 1996 bill in Alabama that would’ve made drug dealers—including those selling cannabis—eligible for the death penalty. And he once joked that members of the Ku Klux Klan “were OK until I found out they smoked pot.”
In confirmation hearings earlier this month, Sessions stopped short of saying he’d target state-legal cannabis. Beyond emphasizing that the substance remains illegal under federal law, he was noncommittal.
“Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state, and the distribution of it, an illegal act,” he told senators. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.”
Sessions struck a similar tone in written responses to senators’ questions. Asked whether he intends to follow the Cole memo, a Department of Justice document that set a policy of not interfering with state-legal cannabis, Sessions declined to commit to anything more than his intent to “review and evaluate” the policy.
“While I am generally familiar with the Cole memorandum, I am not privy to any internal Department of Justice data regarding the effectiveness of the policies contained within that memorandum,” he wrote. His job if confirmed, he wrote, “will be to enforce federal law, under which marijuana is currently a Schedule One controlled substance—defined as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
If approved, Sessions would have more control over federal cannabis policy than anyone but the president. Without pushback from Congress, he could target medical marijuana providers or even seek to overturn state cannabis laws, undoing decades of hard-won reform.
If Sessions’s nomination passes out of committee, it will be put to a vote by the full Senate. Want to make your voice heard on the issue? Below are the members of the Judiciary Committee and their office numbers.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas)
Sen. Michael S. Lee (Utah)
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)
Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.)
Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.)
Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.)
Sen. John Kennedy (La.)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) — Ranking member
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)
Sen. Christopher A. Coons (Del.)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.)
Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)