AG Sessions to Congress: Let Me Prosecute Cannabis Patients
A recently revealed memo from AG Jeff Sessions urging Congress to overturn restrictions on DOJ prosecution of state-legal medical cannabis operations is heating up already simmering uncertainty surrounding the nascent cannabis industry.
Like his boss Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making headlines by making bombastic statements. But beyond the noise, Sessions has yet to accomplish much during his first few months in office.
For instance, he has yet to follow through with any of his many vague-yet-ominous threats to crack down on the country’s burgeoning legal marijuana industry. The main reason why is that Sessions — even if he had enough DEA agents (he does not) and even if he were to fill many of his vacant federal prosecutor positions (he has not) — can’t do anything about it.
The Justice Department is legally barred from prosecuting medical cannabis, as long as state law is obeyed. And Sessions knows it, which is why — as MassRoots’s Tom Angell reported — Sessions lobbied Congress to have those protections removed.
Since 2014, Congress has approved annual spending bills that included an amendment prohibiting the U.S. Justice Department from prosecuting medical-marijuana operations that obey state law. Named after its bipartisan sponsors, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment (often referred to as a “budget rider”) was included in the temporary spending bill passed May 5, which funds the federal government until the fall.
The rider was never popular with prosecutors, and Obama’s Justice Department challenged it when it was first passed — and lost at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that lower courts had to find that a medical cannabis operation was breaking local law before a federal prosecution could begin.
The ruling only applies to medical cannabis — not recreational. And unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling only applies to states within its jurisdiction, which includes California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada, where recreational marijuana is legal.
Obama also pressured Congress, unsuccessfully, to remove the rider from the last few budget bills.
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