Sessions Spars With U.S. Justice Department Interns Over Legal Marijuana

An internal U.S. Justice Department video of a private event forum that included agency interns and the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed a terse exchange between Sessions and interns who dared to question his stance on federal marijuana policy.marijuana lawyer

ABC News reports that while Sessions has insisted on numerous occasions that the federal justice system must be based on law and facts – casting politics aside – he apparently made his political views on legal marijuana crystal clear during this event – even going so far as to mock an intern who pressed him on it.

During the forum, Sessions was asked by one intern for his reasons to support “pretty harsh policies” when it comes to legal marijuana, while simultaneously backing relatively lax gun control measures, given that possession and use of firearms has been proven to result in far more deaths than marijuana. Sessions responded by saying that more fatal accidents are caused by drugs than alcohol (though this is an oversimplification on the research on this front) and that marijuana is undoubtedly unhealthy substance, per the findings of the American Medical Association.

The intern responded by challenging this assertion, to which Sessions responded by dismissively addressing her as “Dr. Whatever Your Name Is,” encouraging her to write to the AMA with her concerns. He added he did not believe America would be safe if cannabis was available “in every corner grocery store.” He said comparing marijuana to guns was apples-to-oranges, and that while the right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment, marijuana has no such protection.

Sessions’ views on legalization of marijuana have not been a secret. He has previously criticized the character of those who use marijuana, stated that D.A.R.E. videos kept kids off drugs (seemingly backing what we know to be failed “War on Drugs” policies) and has stated support for enforcement of federal drug laws.

It’s unclear what this will mean in the coming years for marijuana in California. As our marijuana defense attorneys in Los Angeles know, the state only recently hammered out nearly 300 pages of regulations for the new recreational cannabis marketplace, outlining substantial licensing fees, limitations on THC concentration in edibles and mandates marijuana businesses track all their product from seed-to-sale. The new regulations were initiated by the passage of Proposition 64, which left many of the details of how recreational marijuana would be managed to local governments and state regulators. The state’s regulations are broader industry rules, while local jurisdictions have the authority to decide whether they will allow marijuana to be sold in their jurisdictions. Los Angeles is among those that recently approved marijuana sales, and it’s expected to be the largest metro market for recreational marijuana.

While there are of course varying interests and concerns to balance, it does seem state regulators and local governments have been carefully – even painstakingly – working on this task. While they don’t want to bombard cities with new shops, but they do want to meet demand and do so in a way that will be safe. But all of this work might be for naught if Sessions decides to enforce federal law classifying marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic. Under federal law, cultivation and distribution of marijuana are serious offenses worthy of decades behind bars.

This conflict between federal and state law has affected nearly every aspect of state-approved marijuana distribution, but it’s been less of an issue in recent years, thanks to the hands-off policy adopted by the DOJ under the latter part of the Obama administration. Given Sessions’ position, marijuana businesses and entrepreneurs have less confidence in their operations. Although he promised to adopt “rational policy” on the issue, there has been no indication of what that is.

The reality is that halting legalization of marijuana at this juncture would be practically difficult. Most Americans support it and enforcement of federal laws would result in destabilizing strong markets – and potentially prompting voters to rebel. Then again, this administration has not yielded to the broader public opinion, so this aspect is still a wildcard.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Less-guarded Sessions spars with interns in internal DOJ video, Dec. 7, 2017, By Mike Levine and Geneva Sands, ABC News

More Blog Entries:

Honolulu Police Aim to Get Guns Out of The Hands of Medical Marijuana Patients, Dec. 4, 2017, California Marijuana Lawyer Blog