With Jeff Sessions in the Attorney General top cop spot in the United States, pot activists are admittedly a little nervous about what’s going to happen over the next four years. That’s because Jeff Sessions is anything but pro-marijuana. CNN quotes Sessions as saying he didn’t mind the KKK until he found out they smoked pot. While he says that comment was a joke, most marijuana advocates are currently not laughing as they await his next move.
Pot’s Legal Patchwork
The current problem in the United States is that there is a legal conflict between the states that have legalized some form of marijuana use and federal law, which still classifies pot as a felony. Currently eight states and the District of Columbia, where Sessions lives and works, allow recreational and medicinal pot sales. Another 24 states only allow marijuana for medical usage.
In April, Sessions directed the Justice Department to review federal policies surrounding pot. What’s at stake is a 2013 document called the Cole memo, which outlines a policy shift to allow the feds to defer to the states to set their own policies around pot. Sessions could discard that policy and create his own.
In 2014, the feds also cleared banks to make loans to marijuana businesses, an important step that validated this new industry while helping establish dozens of new pot start-ups.
In the meantime, Congress has been enacting a series of roadblocks to anything Sessions could come up with. For example, Congresswoman Dan Rohrabacher, a California Republican, introduced a federal budget amendment prohibiting the Department of Justice from using federal money to block state pro-medical marijuana laws. The amendment passed. Two Republicans from Colorado followed suit, and their legislation is still pending.
We need these amendments and laws because, in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to Congressional leaders confirming his opposition to the Cole memo.
In the meantime, a new study came out in April that showed 60% of Americans support legalization, and 73% said they did not support the prosecution of pot consumers.
California – A Pot Sanctuary State
Amidst the federal turmoil, California has been quietly passing legislation to block federal agents from enforcing federal marijuana laws and crackdowns. CNN reports the bill narrowly passed last week in the House and is on its way to the Senate next week. However, the California Police Chiefs Association and the State Sheriff’s Association oppose the legislation.
Federal crackdowns on pot could cost California big money; CNN says marijuana sales in the state will exceed $6.5 billion by 2020.
In Oregon, the state legislature just passed a new law saying pot growers cannot collect the personal data on buyers in case the federal government begins a crack down.
The Future of Pot in the U.S.
Marijuana advocates are currently cautiously optimistic that the federal government does not have the resources to roll back the current patchwork of marijuana laws. With more states expected to expand their laws over the next year, it still seems as if the tide of acceptance around this useful plant is continuing to stay on the upswing.