Sessions is targeting the cannabis community — it’s time for Congress to intervene

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Today United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department has rescinded (effective immediately) the Obama administration guidelines – known as the Cole memorandum. This directed U.S. attorneys to not interfere state cannabis laws.

While the AG’s actions are not totally unexpected, they do clash with pledges repeatedly made by President Donald Trump while on the campaign trial, as well as with comments made by Sessions during his Senate confirmation process. At that time, he acknowledged that the guidelines laid out in the memorandum were “appropriate.”

{mosads}More significantly, this move by the administration runs contrary to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of U.S. voters, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – who support the regulation of adult cannabis use and also strongly believe that decisions about marijuana policy ought to be a state issue, not a federal one.


It makes no sense for the Trump administration to reverse this long standing, successful policy directive. Over the past years, over 150,000 jobs have been created in the legal cannabis market.

Regulated statewide marijuana markets have provided an economic boost to numerous cities and states — leading to increased tax revenues, tourism, and home values.  At the same time, these laws have not been associated with serious adverse public health consequences.

For example, teen marijuana use and access has fallen significantly in recent years, as have opioid-related hospitalizations and mortality in legal states. In states where marijuana is legally regulated rather than criminally prohibited, data also reports drops in drug treatment admissions, alcohol consumption, and in prescription drug spending. This is why in recent years support for legalization among the public has grown to record highs, especially in marijuana regulation states.

Today, one in five Americans resides in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized.

It is time for congressional representatives in these districts to step up and defend the rights of their constituents – many of whom rely on these policies for their health and welfare, and who have repeatedly demanded federal legislators to once and for all amend federal law in a manner that comports with cannabis’ rapidly changing legal and cultural status.

America’s federalist system does not mandate states to be beholden to the intellectually and morally bankrupt policy that is marijuana prohibition. The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that all “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” leading former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis to famously opine, “[A] state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

Despite this last gasp attempt by the Justice Department to revert to the failed policies of the past, marijuana is here to stay and ought to be regulated and controlled accordingly.

At the state and local level, public sentiment and common sense are driving necessary and long overdue changes in cannabis policies for millions of Americans. Our nation’s longstanding federalist principles demand that we respect voters’ wishes and that we permit these policies to evolve free from the heavy hand of Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department.

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He is the co-author of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? and the author of the book, The Citizen’s Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws

Tags Donald Trump Jeff Sessions

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