When President Donald Trump nominated Jeff Sessions the nation’s top law enforcer, states with legalized marijuana feared the new head of the Department of Justice would take swift action toward reversing legal pot laws. However, the fear has now mostly evaporated as it seems apparent the federal government is going to leave legal cannabis decisions up to the states.
Earlier this week, President Trump assured U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican representing Colorado, that the administration has no plans to interfere with states’ rights to decide on marijuana legalization issues. According to a Reuters report, Trump confirmed the administration would not take any action that could adversely impact Colorado’s current cannabis laws.
Speaking on behalf of the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders reaffirmed the president’s position.
“We’re always consulting Congress about issues, including states’ rights, of which the president is a firm believer.”
While sounding like a windfall for marijuana legalization advocates, the commitment from President Trump can be viewed as a contradiction to a January 4 announcement made by the Department of Justice. At the behest of Attorney General Sessions, the department revoked a previous policy, known as the “Cole memo,” that promised to ignore states with legal weed despite being illegal at the federal level. The rescission of the memo essentially opens the door for federal prosecutors to file criminal charges against users and marijuana companies even if the substance is legal in their state.
Jeff Sessions, a former prosecutor and Alabama senator, has widely criticized the legalization of pot, even once claiming “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Most cannabis advocates and users strongly believe Sessions is a major roadblock to more weed-friendly laws. As long as Sessions remains in charge and weed remains an illegal substance, it can’t be said for sure if the momentum to make marijuana legal will lose steam or continue to gain acceptance.
Even with President Trump seemingly undermining the DOJ’s commitment to crack down on states with legal marijuana, some lawmakers are trying to make changes that would extend federal protection to cannabis businesses. Per a Los Angeles Times report, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is promoting a bill that prevents any federal agencies from using money to shut down companies selling recreational pot. If enacted, the measure would expand a current federal law that already prohibits agencies from going after medical marijuana businesses.
A poll conducted by Gallup in October found 64 percent of Americans want marijuana legalization. When the same survey was conducted in 2001, only 33 percent thought legal pot was a good idea. Currently, eight states allow recreational use of cannabis and 29 states permit medical marijuana.