It’s been about three months since Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for the Department of Justice to assemble a task force to determine the best approach to certain policies, including the charging and sentencing of federal marijuana cases. Since then, many folks have been questioning exactly what this report would turn up – with many suggesting that they may find a way to link cannabis to violent crime as a reason to enforce harsher sentences.
However, this week the DOJ Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety “has come up with no new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general’s aggressively anti-marijuana views.”
The Associated Press managed to get their hands on a copy of the unpublished report from the Task Force, which specifically says that the Department of Justice “should evaluate whether to maintain, revise or rescind” the Cole Memo – otherwise known as the small document protecting thousands of cannabis businesses from federal interference.
This has to be a somewhat disappointing blow to Sessions, who had recently written a letter to Congress with the hope of convincing them to drop the Cole Memo entirely, allowing him to use Department of Justice funding to go after state-legal cannabis businesses, even if they are in full compliance with their state’s marijuana laws.
Even before this defeat, the Attorney General sent out letters to Governor Jay Inslee, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson asking how they intend to handle specific concerns and potential issues related to legalization.
“Please advise as to how Washington plans…to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors,” Sessions wrote. He also pointedly noted that the Cole memo says “nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence of any one of the factors listed above, in particular circumstances where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important federal interest.”
So even though the Department of Justice Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety has confirmed that there is no immediate need for harsher sentencing or for changes to the way the Obama Administration was handling states with legal cannabis, Sessions may still be looking for loopholes in the Cole Memo.
Just because it hasn’t started yet, doesn’t mean his threats aren’t going to end up being more than verbal. The only way around this is to change his view on cannabis – or for congress to pass one of the many bills aimed at removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. That is, unless courts decide in favor of the five plaintiffs in the case questioning whether or not having cannabis as a schedule I drug is unconstitutional.
Regardless, for now, even with a small victory for the cannabis industry, and a small setback for Sessions hopes to fully enforce federal marijuana laws, the future is still an unknown.