President Trump’s DOJ Ramping Up Crackdown on Marijuana Laws
The Trump Administration is readying for a crackdown on marijuana users under USAG Jeff Sessions.
President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by AG Sessions, is expected to release a report this week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant.
Sessions sent a memo in April updating the US Attorney’s Offices and Department of Justice Department (DOJ) component heads on the work of the task force, which he said would be accomplished through various subcommittees.
In the memo, AG Sessions said he has asked for initial recommendations no later than 27 July.
“Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities,” he wrote.
Criminal justice reform advocates fear AG Sessions’s memo signals stricter enforcement is ahead.
“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said the Director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.
“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”
AG Sessions sent a letter in May asking congressional leaders to do away with an amendment to the DOJ budget prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” said the letter from AG Sessions.
As for the task force, AG Sessions said another subcommittee would “explore our use of asset forfeiture and make recommendations on any improvements needed to legal authorities, policies, and training to most effectively attack the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.”
Last Wednesday, AG Sessions reportedly re-established a controversial criminal asset seizure program ahead of the committee’s recommendations.
Local law enforcement leaders say a crackdown appears to be next, though they argue there’s no need for it.
8 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and another 21 states allow the use of medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, but marijuana use is still illegal under federal law.
If and when AG Sessions ignites a fight over states rights, the Big Q is: Qill spur Republicans into a showdown with The Trump Administration on criminal justice reform.
Paul is part of bipartisan group of Senators pushing legislation to allow patients to continue accessing medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution.
Legislation introduced last month by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-UT) known as the The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies.
In the past President Trump talked about leaving marijuana legalization up to the states. But last month he pushed back against the congressional ban on DOJ interfering with state medical marijuana laws in a singing statement, asserting that he is not legally bound to the limits imposed by Congress.
AG Sessions is not alone in his views on marijuana in all forms. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agrees that there needs to be stricter enforcement.
“I believe marijuana probably needs to be cracked down on, but we’ll see when he sends it over,” Senator Graham said of the task force report.
Have a terrific week.