In another worrying sign for California’s newly legalized marijuana industry, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department is reviewing its hands-off policy toward enforcing federal anti-pot laws—and that he’s seeing “real violence” linked to marijuana.
In another worrying sign for California’s newly legalized marijuana industry, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today that the Department of Justice is currently reviewing its hands-off policy toward enforcing federal anti-pot laws.
While Sessions stopped short of saying he will actually change the Obama administration’s enforcement guidelines, which essentially permit the legalization efforts underway in eight states, the former Alabama senator expressed concern that legal marijuana use is connected to criminal behavior. “We’re seeing real violence around that,” he told reporters. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.
“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he continued. “States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”
The attorney general’s comments come days after similar remarks by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who at a press briefing last week said he expects “greater enforcement of federal law” against recreational marijuana.
Responding to questions at a White House press briefing, Spicer said that “recreational use is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into,” and linked marijuana to the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. Spicer indicated that the administration would not devote resources to the prosecution of medical marijuana users, a group President Trump has repeatedly defended.
Here are Spicer’s comments in full, which are stretched over two questions and end at about the 28 minute mark.
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Californians voted overwhelmingly to legalize recreational marijuana this past November, and state lawmakers are currently working on the details of how to tax and regulate an industry that would be in clear violation of federal law. California is slated to issue licenses for retail marijuana sales starting in January of 2018.
If the Trump administration reverts to the more aggressively anti-drug approaches of previous administrations before Obama’s, it could disrupt the recreational marijuana markets currently legal in eight states through a variety of federal enforcement actions—from Drug Enforcement Agency raids and arrests to letters instructing retailers and suppliers to shut down.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a leading 2018 gubernatorial candidate and outspoken proponent of legalization, tweeted a letter to the administration calling Spicer’s remarks “grossly misinformed” and defending California’s legalization plans.