Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday that the Justice Department is examining ways to work toward a “rational” marijuana policy, though he did not provide details, including whether the DOJ will crack down on states where the drug has been legalized.
“We’re looking very hard on that right now. In fact, we had meetings yesterday and talked about it at some length,” Sessions said about the department’s stance toward marijuana during an announcement on new funding and tools the agency will use to combat the opioid crisis. He did not elaborate further.
The attorney general added that he views pot as “detrimental” and noted that consumption is still a federal violation.
“I don’t want to suggest in any way that this department in any way believes that marijuana is harmless … people should avoid it,” he said.
Sessions holds the power over the federal enforcement arm of criminal laws, such as the Controlled Substances Act.
The marijuana industry currently benefits from a legal memorandum issued by the Justice Department in 2013 that essentially adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, so long as they don’t threaten other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of the drug to minors and supporting cartels. But a Justice Department with Sessions at the helm has the ability to rip this up and simply issue a new memo.
During the news conference, the former Alabama senator also said he felt “dubious” about a 2016 pharmaceutical lobby-pushed law that has made it more difficult for the Drug Enforcement Administration to take action against pharmaceutical distributors sending off large opioid shipments.
“I went along with it after the department and the DEA agreed to accept it,” Sessions said.
Earlier this fall, The Washington Post and CBS’ “60 Minutes” conducted a joint investigation into the effects of the bill. They found that the bill raised the burden of proof for the DEA, making it more difficult for the agency to stop high quantities of pain pills from entering pharmacies across the country.
“I would be supportive of new legislation,” Sessions said Wednesday, later adding, “I guess you could say in some areas it’s more difficult than it would have been had that law not passed.”
Sessions, a fervent critic of so-called “sanctuary cities,” emphasized that believes they are a safe havens for drug dealers, adding that their impact is being felt “across state lines.”
“I think sanctuary cities are a detriment to enforcing our drug laws and it just reaffirms my view that this is a very, very bad policy,” he said.