AG Jeff Sessions Says States are Free to Set Their Own Cannabis Laws, Sort Of

After the press conference a Department of Justice spokesperson said the comments did not represent a shift for Sessions

Sessions Comments are as Clear as a Car after a Hotbox with Cheech and Chong

Speaking at a press conference in Boston about unrelated fraud prosecutions, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the federal pot prohibition still exists but that states have the right to pass their own laws.

When a reporter asked Sessions about the federal stance on legalization in Massachusetts, he said the US Department of Justice will continue to enforce federal law on marijuana although states are allowed to set their own cannabis laws.

"Personally, my view is that the American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner, but states have a right to set their own laws and will do so, and we will follow the federal law," Sessions said.

Which means…?

After the press conference, a Department of Justice spokesperson said the comments did not represent a shift for Sessions who is fervently anti-marijuana.

In January 2018, Sessions announced that he was rescinding Obama-era guidance, known as the Cole Memo, which is a document drafted by former US Attorney General James M. Cole in 2013. The Cole Memo indicated that prosecutors and law enforcement should leave legal cannabis states to deal with their own programs with no federal interference.

US Attorney Andrew Lelling, a top federal prosecutor who reports to Sessions, issued a statement that regulators interpreted as the Obama-era rules continuing to be in effect.

Lelling said in the statement his office will continue to prioritize prosecutions to stop the opioid epidemic and that Massachusetts will focus on overproduction, sales to minors and organized drug crime.

Steve Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission said earlier this month Lelling's comments were similar to the Obama-era rules.

"I think it's helpful to have clarity, I think it's good to hear that his concerns are things we're already concerned about and addressing in our regulations, so I thought it was all good news," Hoffman said.

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Neon Joint
Neon Joint

Clarity is absolutely helpful here! It's good to know that there are officials who are willing to point out the significant differences between the prohibition of marijuana at the federal level and the problems caused by opioid abuse and addiction. But, I'm also curious to see what this administration's stance will ultimately be on federal legalization...

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