In February 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions convened a task force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. Sessions assigned numerous federal prosecutors and law enforcement personnel to this task force and ordered them to put forth recommendations to address violent crime. Many have expected this to be a pretext to go after recreational marijuana use in states that have legalized the industry.
Sessions directed members of the task force to review “existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana” to ensure compliance with the Trump Administration’s desire to reduce violent crime.
However, the task force instead recommended maintaining the status quo between the states and federal government as it pertains to legalized recreational marijuana and the industry that has flourished. This surprising recommendation probably does not matter to Sessions. Sessions has been planning his assault on legalized marijuana since taking office.
Under the Obama Administration, Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued the so-called “Cole Memorandum” that outlined the Department of Justice’s approach to states that have legalized marijuana and individuals, growers, and sellers in those states. Specifically, the Cole memo instructed federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting those persons who comply with state law and regulations. Moreover, Congress barred the DOJ from targeting medical marijuana by depriving the DOJ of funds to prosecutor users, growers and sellers who comply with state law.
While Sessions has stated that the Cole memo is “valid,” the Cole memo provides discretion to prosecutors to target the marijuana industry, including users, growers, and sellers, on the pretext that those individuals and the industry itself have not complied with the Cole memo. This is exactly what Sessions has seized upon.
The governors of Washington, Colorado and Oregon sent letters to Sessions detailing their states’ compliance with the Cole memo. Sessions responded by informing those states that the DOJ “remains committed to enforcing” federal law on marijuana, which Sessions believes is a “dangerous drug.” Sessions then informed those states that the Cole memo permits the “investigation and prosecution” of the legal marijuana industry, even when the marijuana industry complies with the Cole memo.
Specifically, Sessions argued that there has been an increase in car crashes involving drivers who tested positive for cannabinoids. However, cannabis, unlike alcohol, remains in a person’s system for days, if not weeks, after use and, thus, there is no evidence to support the contention that those drivers were under the influence of marijuana. Moreover, no one is calling for a ban on alcohol because of the number of drunk or impaired drivers.
In addition to warning governors around the country, Sessions wrote a letter in May 2017 to Congress, advising them that it is unwise to limit the DOJ’s prosecutorial discretion “in the midst of an historic epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.” This, however, is a gross misstatement of what is actually occurring. While there is a drug epidemic in our county, it is related to opioids (i.e., heroin and prescription drugs), not marijuana. Furthermore, according to the DOJ’s own Bureau of Justice Statistics, the violent crime rate across the U.S. has fallen since 1993.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Marijuana Attorney
If you have been charged with a marijuana offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced Columbus and Delaware, Ohio marijuana attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your marijuana case.