“Wait did I read that correctly?” you’re probably asking yourself, right? Mr. Sessions has seemingly been the thorn in the side of the legal marijuana movement and he’s been a topic of great debate for days now. But there may be some shining light ahead to put a bit more ease to those looking at this industry and in their favor. Yes, worries about this “great shift” in federal enforcement in states where recreational legalization has been granted may be able to breathe a little easier right now.
There’s been an immense amount of angst and paranoia with regard to what some have understood as a government crackdown on recreational use. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has had private discussions with a few Republican senators saying that he doesn’t plan to stray away from the Obama-placed policy of granting states the ability to enact their own marijuana laws for their residents.
Sessions has been a strong force to be reckoned with after he ordered a review of the “hands-off” policy that President Barack Obama previously had. But apparently Mr. Sessions has had a bit of a change of heart and in private conversations, has assured senators before he was confirmed that he didn’t have too much consideration about drastically changing the enforcement laws; even though he’s not a fan of the drug’s use.
Here are a few quotes from these informed senators:
“Nothing at this point has changed,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)
“He told me he would have some respect for states’ right on these things. And so I’ll be very unhappy if the federal government decides to go into Colorado and Washington and all of these places. And that’s not the [what] my interpretation of my conversation with him was. That this wasn’t his intention.”
-Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky)
“We respectfully request that you uphold DOJ’s existing policy regarding states that have implemented strong and effective regulations for recreational use. It is critical that states continue to implement these laws.”
-Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) & Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
“Do they really respect states’ rights? Then you should respect all of them, not just pick and choose the ones that you want to support or not. Many states have gone not only the path of Nevada of recreational marijuana but medical marijuana. How can you pick or choose one or another?”
-Sen Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada)
A group of bipartisan senators also had submitted a letter on Thursday that pushed for Sessions to keep the Obama-era policy intact in order to let states decide on how to implement recreational marijuana laws. Sen. Warren and Sen. Murkowski lead the effort; both of who are from states who’s already put legalized marijuana laws in place.
To date, 8 states and Washington, D.C. have laws in place that legalize marijuana for recreational use. Most senators who signed on the letter are from those states with Murkowski being the only Republican. The others include:
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington
Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts
Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
The concern isn’t just among senators from those states but is an issue among many conservatives who are nervous about the GOP being selective about allowing the rights of states to supersede federal law.
“We’re concerned about some of the language that we’re hearing. And I think that conservatives who are for states’ rights ought to believe in states’ rights. I’m going to continue to advocate that the states should be left alone,” Paul said.
Sen. Gardner was even more direct with the opinion on Sessions’ comments, “He was talking about if there’s cartels involved in illegal operations, they’re going to crack down on that. That’s what everybody’s saying. I still haven’t heard Jeff Sessions say that. We obviously want to make sure we’re clear on what they’ve said.”
Despite the shake-up that Sessions almost single-handedly ignited with his comments about “not being a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” or how despite him being open to states passing laws that they choose, he made it a point to say, “it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not,” senators like Murkowski seem unshaken. In fact Murkowski said that she wasn’t alarmed and is simply monitoring the DOJ closely, “It’s probably a little premature to try to predict what may or may not be coming out of the administration on this, so I think we just need to sit back and see.”