Many states have followed Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. And under the Obama administration, nothing was really done about it. Federal law still banned the use of the drug, however, and Obama era policy restricted the ability of U.S. attorneys to prosecute people for marijuana possession as a federal crime.
However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made moves to allow U.S. attorneys to have that freedom back. Sessions wants attorneys to be able to “make decisions in these cases as they do in other drug cases.”
The original policy that restricted freedom to prosecute was instituted in 2013 and told states that their legalization processes would not be hindered as long as they did not restrict the federal government from prosecuting more specific crimes. The Department of Justice still wanted to be able to prosecute the sale of marijuana to minors, interstate delivery of the drug, or using marijuana as a front for other, more dangerous drugs.
It should be noted that Sessions was clear that this move was not one that immediately made all recreational legalization ineffective. Sessions was merely allowing his attorneys to make any arrests that they felt necessary. His mindset is made clear in his statement below.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
By giving U.S. attorneys more freedom when it comes to prosecuting crimes they feel are threatening the well being of people, Sessions is helping keep Americans safe. The exact link between marijuana and violence is not completely understood but violent crime has significantly risen in states that have legalized marijuana.
After years of lax behavior regarding the legalization of marijuana, it is refreshing to see an administration take a hard stand on the dangerous drug and help keep Americans safe.