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Sessions Task Force Will Review DOJ Cannabis Enforcement

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about crime to local, state and federal law enforcement officials Friday, March 31, 2017, in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent out a memo on Wednesday to U.S. Attorneys announcing the formation of a new task crime reduction task force. The task force will review how the Department of Justice enforces cannabis laws, among other things, and will report its initial recommendations by July 27, 2017.

In the memo, which was sent to federal prosecutors and the heads of Justice Department agencies, Sessions said that task force subcommittees will focus on a variety of issues, including:

Developing violent crime reduction strategies, supporting prevention and re-entry efforts, updating charging and sentencing policies, reviewing asset forfeiture guidance, reducing illegal immigration and human trafficking, combating hate crimes, and evaluating marijuana enforcement policy.

Sessions did not announce how many people are on the task force, who they are, or whether they have positions inside or outside the federal government.

On the topic of cannabis, the task force will “review existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with administration goals and priorities.”

So it seems as if cannabis will be included into a subcommittee that is looking at the appropriate levels of charging and sentencing.

This seems to add to the uncertainty in the cannabis industry, as Sessions has sent many mixed messages on cannabis and its continued federal prohibition.

In February, Sessions said that the DOJ will try and adopt more “responsible policies” for enforcing cannabis laws. Experts told him, he said, that there is more violence around cannabis than one would think.

One of the other subcommittee’s will explore the use of asset forfeiture, and make recommendations on any improvements to legal authorities, policies, and training to most effectively attack the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.

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The new task force is not specifically focused on the enforcement of federal cannabis laws. The Violent Crime Reduction Strategy Development Subcommittee will make recommendations for the department’s overall violent crime reduction strategy, which according to the memo, will focus on enforcement against violent offenders.

The subcommittee will also focus on immigration enforcement and human trafficking to ensure that the federal government has “an aggressive and coordinated strategy to deter those who violate our boarders and subject others to forced labor, involuntary servitude, sex trafficking, and other forms of modern-day slavery.

Sessions added that the DOJ also must protect the civil rights of all Americans, and accordingly, the Hate Crimes Subcommittee will “develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes and better protect the rights of all Americans.”