As of now eight states have legalized or regulated weed, but these moves are contrary to federal legislation, which still classifies weed as a schedule l drug and does not allow individuals to sell or use it. In each of the eight states, there are already several established marijuana dispensaries and any individual that wants the product can freely get it. The Obama administration took a hands-off approach to this issue, thereby, allowing state-legalized industries to grow.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he is planning to take a new approach to states that have legalized the product, but there is divided opinion on whether the public sentiment and Congress will be in support of it. We have summarized the Trump administration’s opinions and their implication on states that have legalized sale and use of marijuana.
Attorney General’s Opinion
Jeff Sessions is no fan of cannabis and has declared this publicly. Earlier this year, he formed and mandated a team comprising of law enforcement officials and prosecutors to find solutions to Public Safety and Crime Reduction issues with respect to violent crime. The team was required to investigate and find solutions to matters arising from the current cannabis policies and prosecution practices, immigration enforcement policies, and human trafficking incidents.
The Attorney General recommends a more active federal role on regulating cannabis use and distribution across state lines. In May, Sessions wrote a letter to the Congress, protesting against restricting funding to the Department of Justice in a time the nations is at war with a historic drug pandemic.
He wrote that the department should be empowered to apply all the anti-drug laws in combating the nationwide drug cartels and drug trafficker who pose a threat to public safety.
According to Jeff Hank, a Michigan pro-marijuana legislation attorney, if the Congress continues to limit the budget on cannabis enforcement, Session will find it difficult to achieve this goal. Jeff further said that he believes Session’s words won’t become actions and that the war on marijuana legislation appears to have been won as more and more states are legalizing it.
The Task Force’s Recommendations
The Associated Press reported that the task force recommended reevaluation of the Cole Memorandum, which limits the federal marijuana enforcement’s influence over states that have allowed use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. In those states weed delivery by licensed businesses and individual is legal.
The team made several recommendations, one of them, as reported by the Associated Press, is that the Department of Treasury and the Justice Department should work jointly to empower financial institutions and enable them comply with the law with regards to the weed industry, and develop an integrated, fool-proof system for monitoring it.
Marijuana Amendments Blocked by House Committee
Early September, the House Rules Committee allegedly heeded to the Attorney General’s request, blocking a vote on many weed-related amendments. Among them was the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which has barred the Department of Treasury from funding the Justice Department in pursuing states that have already legalized weed.
California’s Representative Dana Rohrabacher who was the amendment’s Republican sponsor said it’s hypocritical for the Congress to deny people the right to use cannabis, as it’s an alternative to opioids.
Also, the Congress Blocked amendments to make it legal for banks and other financial institutions to support the marijuana industry, and fully legalize adult weed use in the nine states where it has been legalized.
President Trump’s Opinion
During his campaign, Trump on several occasions said that he is of the opinion weed regulation should be left up to the respective states to decide.
While in office, Trump has avoided commenting on the subject, but in Feb. former Press Secretary Sean Spicer revealed that the new administration has two distinct opinions on medical and recreational cannabis. He said that he believed the Department of Justice will continue enforcing existing laws with respect to recreational use of weed.
Despite the federal government’s ban, more and more states are legalizing marijuana use, allowing the product to be sold by marijuana dispensaries and other distributors. It appears the federal government won’t change its laws to legalize the product any soon. But the state governments are finding new ways to legalize use of the products within their areas of jurisdiction at different levels including municipalities. Because of the federal government’s ground on use of marijuana, for now, complete marijuana legalization remains a puzzle to be solved.