Appearing this morning on conservative talker Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, Attorney General Jeff Sessions answered “we will enforce law” to Hewitt’s question about whether the Department of Justice will file a racketeering (RICO) case against recreational marijuana businesses in states that have legalized marijuana.
Sessions then pivoted from discussion of recreational marijuana policy to addressing the opiate epidemic, in particular mentioning the spread of fentanyl. (I had predicted just yesterday on The Russ Belville Show that we’d hear a constant stream of rhetoric from the administration trying to link recreational marijuana to the opiate epidemic.)
Here is the audio and a transcript (emphasis mine) from The Hugh Hewitt Show:
HH: Let’s talk about the rule of law. I have a piece coming out in the Washington Post about this on Sunday, Attorney General Sessions. One RICO prosecution against one marijuana retailer in one state that has so-called legalization ends this façade and this flaunting of the Supremacy Clause. Will you be bringing such a case?
JS: We will, marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws. 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.
HH: No, but it would literally take one racketeering influence corrupt organization prosecution to take all the money from one retailer, and the message would be sent. I mean, if you want to send that message, you can send it. Do you think you’re going to send it?
JS: Well, we’ll be evaluating how we want to handle that. 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.
JS: 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.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
UPDATE: I changed the original headline of this post, “Sessions Says ‘We Will’ Bring RICO Case Against State-Legal Marijuana” on the prompting of Tom Angell and Kaliko Castille, who correctly noted that Sessions’ “We will…” was really more of a transitional phrase, not an affirmation of Hewitt’s question.
I tend to think that Sessions was about to launch into a “We will…” that was about to spill the beans on the DOJ considering a RICO case. Then he catches himself about to pull another “I didn’t meet with the Russians”, pauses, and recites the anodyne “marijuana is against federal law” script.
But that, of course, is conjecture and not really supportive of the headline, so I took their advice and changed it to better reflect the best-case scenario in this exchange: that the Attorney General has not taken RICO prosecutions against state-legal marijuana off the table.
Thanks for the real-time proofreading via Twitter, guys. -“R”R