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Trump’s AG Nominee Continues to Waffle on Cannabis

January 24, 2017
Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation before before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
During confirmation hearings in the Senate this month, Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s nominee for US attorney general, left observers guessing as to whether he plans to crack down in states that have legalized cannabis. And if patients and businesses were hoping his written responses to policy questions would provide any added insight, they’re likely to be disappointed.

In his written replies to questions from fellow senators, which Sessions submitted last week, the Alabama Republican for the most part echoed what he has said previously about his intent to enforce federal law in states that have legalized cannabis, noting both the fact that cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act and the reality that the Department of Justice must prioritize enforcement resources.

“The exact balance of enforcement priorities is an ever-changing determination based on the circumstances and the resources available at the time,” Sessions wrote. Nevertheless, he emphasized, cannabis “is still a criminal substance under federal law.”


Sessions Hearings Fail to Answer Questions on Cannabis

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 again 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,” Sessions wrote. “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Attorney General, I will certainly review and evaluate those policies, including the original justifications for the memorandum, as well as any relevant data and how circumstances may have changed or how they may change in the future.”

It is important, Sessions added, that the government knows as much as possible about the health-related and other impacts of cannabis consumption.

“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Attorney General, I will defer to the American Medical Association and the researchers at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere about the medical effects of marijuana,” he wrote. “Without having studied the relevant regulations in depth, I cannot say whether they may need to be eased in order to advance research; but, I will review this. If confirmed, 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.”


We’re Watching the Jeff Sessions Confirmation Hearings So You Don’t Have To

Sessions, famously, is no friend of cannabis. He once joked that he felt Ku Klux Klan members “were OK until I found out they smoked pot,” and is on the record as saying that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” In his written statements, the senator claimed his words were taken out of context.

“My words have been grossly mischaracterized and taken out of context,” he wrote. “I was discussing the value of treating people for using dangerous and illegal drugs like marijuana, and the context in which treatment is successful.”

Senators were initially slated to vote Tuesday on whether to confirm Sessions, but Democrats in the Senate have delayed the vote in order to spend more time reviewing the Trump nominee. A panel vote will be held Jan. 31 and afterward will head to the Senate floor.

Despite his limited support from Democrats, uncertainty around cannabis, and rumors of racist behavior during his time as a federal prosecutor, Sessions is widely expected to be confirmed as attorney general, where he will set national law enforcement priorities.

Gage Peake's Bio Image

Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • StopProhibition

    How do we stop him from completely shutting the industry down?

    • have the tyrant terrorist arrested

      • DahBoner

        Who arrested Hitler? 😀

        • good point, time for me to smoke this joint

    • HonkyGeorge

      It’s too big to shut down.

    • Tom R

      Quit f, ing attacking him or he will tell Jeff Sessions to shut you down. F, ing retards.

  • Jessy Ln

    how many of the legal cannabis states voted for trump? The, ‘i don’t drink, but i get the sniffles when i’m stressed’ trump

    • NeverViolence

      Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada…

  • dre dog

    did you know that in alabama it is legal to marry your own sister , this is his state.

    • Tom R

      Another brainless, witless, liberal display of not having a productive thought in the head. Jeees

  • Terry Sear

    Dump Obama care. Keep cannabis.

  • hugh bell

    Sessions did state that if the people want marijuana then congress should pass a law to allow it. There is plenty of valid evidence supporting the medical aspects of cannabis such that I doubt that congress is going to shut down cannabis. Difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

  • mj

    Hopefully he listens to the american medical association, who does belive it has medical properties. There is a conference on medical Marijuana that doctors and nurses can go to and get continuing education credits, in order to keep their license. Government is really just giving big pharma a chance to catch up before they take it off schedule 1. FDA has already approved a drug from GW Pharm. and it is being used in other countries. They are a British company that has ben studying Marijuana for years. The proof is there but big Pharma in the USA hasn’t ben able to study it until last year. So once USA big Pharma makes a pill it will be changed. The only way to figure out what our government is doing is to follow the money.

  • HonkyGeorge

    Trump has been on Alex Jones. I don’t think suppressing cannabis is one of his priorities. Besides, Sessions added this:

    “The exact balance of enforcement priorities is an ever-changing determination based on the circumstances and the resources available at the time,”

    He’s saying it would suck up resources to crack down on legal states. There’s no money in the budget to do get rid of something that’s generating plenty of tax revenue.

    • Tom R

      And Trump’s ego requires love.

  • Darin Livingston

    He says he needs to do more studying and research. How can his opinion and prejudice change with such a closed mind and heart?

  • Mary Klein

    Dangerous and illegal? Cannabis? LOL. He needs to re schedule it immediately. He is clueless on the matter and needs some guidance into reality.