Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, in Washington, D.C., for a sheriff’s convention, told Capital Public Radio that he discussed marijuana policy with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump’s AG’s remarks are relatively positive for the cannabis community. Sheriff Jones states that Sessions, while not ruling out the possibility of enforcing federal law against large-scale cartel grows, seemed to be inclined to maintain the status quo of the Obama Administration, and not using federal law enforcement agents to prioritize marijuana prosecutions.
From Capital Public Radio:
As for marijuana, Jones says his conversation with Sessions didn’t lead him to believe much would change.
“Regarding the prioritization of federal resources to combat marijuana, he didn’t see the federal government getting involved in marijuana use or low-level state, what are traditionally state and local crimes, but, I don’t think he ruled out the possibility of the federal government getting involved in larger-scale operations.”
The sheriff says those operations would include trafficking by drug cartels.
The cannabis community has been scouring every bit of political news from the Trump Administration, trying to gauge what the federal marijuana policy will be under the new regime. The livelihood, freedom and investment of thousands of people literally hang in the balance as we wait to see if the Justice Department will continue to follow the Cole Memo, allowing state-regulated marijuana businesses to proceed, or whether there will be some revisions or a complete upheaval of the pragmatic policy.
There have been some positive signs, some bad signs (starting with the nomination of Jeff Sessions) and apparently a little bit of fake news thrown in to muddy the waters just a bit, and Sheriff Jones’ comments are just the latest bit of information that we can now analyze. While it will be reassuring to hear an official Justice Department policy on cannabis, it is heartening to hear that Sessions told a law enforcement officer that federal priorities made it unlikely that the Justice Department would get involved in marijuana use or what are traditionally state and local crimes.
Priorities, priorities, priorities
While we certainly can’t count our chickens just yet, or do any kind of victory celebration, but each day that goes by, I become more confident that the Trump Administration won’t use our limited federal resources to trample the will of state voters that have chosen to legalize cannabis. While Jeff Sessions may personally want to arrest each and every marijuana smoker, since he doesn’t believe that any good people use cannabis, the enormous scope of the U.S. Attorney General’s job makes very unlikely that marijuana will be a major priority of the Justice Department.
With terrorism, sex trafficking and international drug cartels to contend with, there shouldn’t be a lot of resources available to interfere with state marijuana regulations. Also, since the President of the United States believes (albeit wrongly) that there is massive voter fraud in this country and that the murder rate is at it’s highest point in 45 to 47 years, the federal government will look rather incompetent spending time, money and political capital on on a war against state-legal marijuana businesses.
Politics, politics, politics
The current political landscape should help convince the Trump Administration to maintain a states’ rights position on cannabis. The White House is currently embroiled in a full-scale scandal after National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign less than a month after getting the job. With members of Congress, including some within his own party, calling for an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, does he really want another controversial political headache to contend with?
If the federal government runs roughshod over state marijuana laws, the Trump Administration will come under fire from fellow Republicans such as California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, in addition to many Democrats who are pouncing on each and every misstep by the president and his aides. With a majority of the population living in areas that have legalized marijuana for either recreational or medical use, there will be plenty of politicians that will be forced to stand up for their constituents, even if they don’t personally support legalization. And with 60% of Americans now supporting legalization, it will be foolish for a battered Donald Trump to enact a very unpopular policy that goes against the political leanings of a strong majority of voters.
There are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about the federal marijuana policy of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, and we’ll need to remain vigilant to protect the progress we’ve made, but Sessions conversation with Sheriff Jones is a promising development. No one should take anything for granted or claim that they know for sure what the Sessions Justice Department will do, but the current political environment seems relatively promising for the time being (in at least maintaining the status quo).