Sessions indicates he’ll pursue more stringent regulations on marijuana, state AG seeks discussion

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions added to the growing list of insinuations from the Trump Administration that indicates the Department of Justice could take a more hardline approach to regulating recreational marijuana than the Obama Administration did.

On a Thursday morning conservative talk radio show, Jeff Sessions said:

…Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws,” he said on the Hugh Hewitt Show. “So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide. It’s not possible for the federal government, of course, to take over everything the local police used to do in a state that’s legalized it. And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize. I don’t think we’re going to be a better community if marijuana is sold in every corner grocery store.

As he spoke about how the DOJ might regulate legal marijuana, he went on to align marijuana use and regulation with the opioid addiction epidemic.

I think it’s a little more complicated than one RICO case, I’ve got to tell you. This, places like Colorado, it’s just sprung up a lot of different independent entities that are moving marijuana. And it’s also being moved interstate, not just in the home state…
And neighbors are complaining, and filed lawsuits against them. So it’s a serious matter, in my opinion. And I just came from a big rally in New Hampshire yesterday, Hugh. This is, this opioid problem is just huge. There were 9,000 high school and junior high school students there. A mother I met who had lost a son three months before, a child, and she said there were 50 more mothers there who’d lost children speaking to those kids. We’ve had this huge opioid surge in America, 120 people a day die from drug overdose. And I do believe, and the President has issued an order to the Department of Justice to crack down on drugs and these international cartels that are moving this Fentanyl that’s so deadly into our country. And we’re going to step up that in a very vigorous way as I talk to United States Attorneys yesterday by conference call.

All the while, the marijuana industry, which is working to establish itself among other legitimate industries is paying close attention, and emphasizing good practices in the retail and medical marijuana business world. Business Insider reported on the fears within the industry in a Thursday article:

BMI notes the bipartisan support from members of Congress for legalization. Conservatives, focused on the bottom-line, see marijuana legalization as a way to reduce federal spending on criminal justice and healthcare. Progressives, meanwhile, oppose the lopsided incarceration of minority groups for marijuana crimes.

In his written responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing, Sessions said Congress should pass a law to “change the rule,” if it desires federal legalization.

To Peterson, the CEO of Wurk, the numbers add up in favor of the federal government keeping the hands-off approach. Some projections show the legal marijuana industry adding more than a quarter of a million jobs to the economy by 2020 — overtaking the manufacturing sector’s job creation.

At a Thursday press conference where he focused almost entirely on the ongoing lawsuit Washington was working on against the Trump Administration’s travel ban, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he hoped Sessions would meet with him to discuss the regulation of marijuana.

At the press conference, Ferguson was asked whether Sessions would be likely to meet with him in light of the travel ban lawsuit.

“Look if he’s the kind of official who can’t keep those issues separate perhaps not, but I’m confident he will be,” Ferguson said.

Sessions has not yet responded to Ferguson’s request for a meeting, but the state AG said he wasn’t yet drawing significant meaning from that.

“I certainly would assume and trust that he is able to compartmentalize those things and we are adults and that’s the way it works,” he said. “If he can’t, well then that’s ok. We’ve extended the invitation for a meeting, but if he declines the meeting that is up to him. But we are certainly willing and able to meet.”

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

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