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Jeff Sessions Says Justice Still Discussing Federal Pot Enforcement

Jeff Sessions was asked for his thoughts on cannabis during a November 29 appearance, and he didn't hold back.
Jeff Sessions was asked for his thoughts on cannabis during a November 29 appearance, and he didn't hold back. YouTube
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to make remarks that alarm state-legalized pot industries and consumers across the country. During a press conference on Wednesday, November 29, announcing new grants and Drug Enforcement Administration projects to combat the national opioid crisis, Sessions told reporters that the Department of Justice is looking at ways to increase federal enforcement against cannabis use, something he called "detrimental" to the country.

"We’re working on that very hard right now. We had meetings yesterday and talked about it at some length,” he replied when a reporter asked about 2013's Cole Memorandum — a set of guidelines from the Obama Administration designed to give federal prosecutors clarity on how to operate in states that have legalized retail cannabis. Those comments came just a little more than two weeks after Sessions said that the DOJ wouldn't interfere with Obama-era protections for state cannabis programs.

“It’s my view that the use of marijuana is detrimental and we should not give encouragement in any way to it. It represents a federal violation which is in the law and is subject to being enforced, and our priorities will have to be focused on all the things and challenges we face," Sessions told reporters on November 29. "We’ve got fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and marijuana and other drugs. So we’ll be working our way through to a rational policy. But I don’t want to suggest in any way that this department believes that marijuana is harmless and people should not avoid it.”

Sessions has been a regular presence in pot-entrepreneur nightmares since taking office with the Trump administration in January 2017, making public remarks and private moves — later made public — to tamp down the American public's rising support for federal cannabis legalization. In April, governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington sent a letter to Sessions, asking him to respect state's rights and to consult with state governments operating under the Cole Memo. The AG's response to the four governors voiced his concerns with commercializing pot, which he and the DOJ still consider a Schedule I substance.

Watch the full press conference below:
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell