Task force on mar­i­juana law of­fers lit­tle on new poli­cies

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: The bet­ting was that law-and-or­der At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions would come out against the le­gal­ized mar­i­juana in­dus­try with guns blaz­ing. But the task force Ses­sions as­sem­bled to find the best le­gal strat­egy is giv­ing him no am­mu­ni­tion, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The Task Force on Crime Re­duc­tion and Pub­lic Safety, a group of pros­e­cu­tors and fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, has come up with no new pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions to ad­vance the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s ag­gres­sively anti-mar­i­juana views. The group’s re­port largely re­it­er­ates the cur­rent Jus­tice Depart­ment pol­icy on mar­i­juana. It en­cour­ages of­fi­cials to keep study­ing whether to change or re­scind the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s more hand­soff ap­proach to en­force­ment - a stance that has al­lowed the na­tion’s ex­per­i­ment with le­gal pot to flour­ish. The re­port was not slated to be re­leased pub­licly, but por­tions were ob­tained by the AP.

Ses­sions, who has as­sailed mar­i­juana as com­pa­ra­ble to heroin and blamed it for spikes in vi­o­lence, has been promis­ing to re­con­sider ex­ist­ing pot pol­icy since he took of­fice six months ago. His state­ments have sparked both sup­port and worry across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum as a grow­ing num­ber of states have worked to le­gal­ize the drug.

Threats of a fed­eral crack­down have united lib­er­als, who ob­ject to the hu­man costs of a war on pot, and some con­ser­va­tives, who see it as a states’ rights is­sue. Some ad­vo­cates and mem­bers of Congress had feared the task force’s rec­om­men­da­tions would give Ses­sions the green light to be­gin dis­man­tling what has be­come a so­phis­ti­cated, mul­timil­lion-dol­lar pot in­dus­try that helps fund schools, ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams and law en­force­ment. But the tepid na­ture of the rec­om­men­da­tions sig­nals just how dif­fi­cult it would be to change course on pot.

Tougher ap­proach

Some in law en­force­ment sup­port a tougher ap­proach, but a bi­par­ti­san group of se­na­tors in March urged Ses­sions to up­hold ex­ist­ing mar­i­juana pol­icy. Oth­ers in Congress are seek­ing ways to pro­tect and pro­mote pot busi­nesses. The vague rec­om­men­da­tions may be in­ten­tional, re­flect­ing an un­der­stand­ing that shut­ting down the en­tire in­dus­try is nei­ther palat­able nor pos­si­ble, said John Hu­dak, a se­nior fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion who stud­ies mar­i­juana law and was in­ter­viewed by mem­bers of the task force.

“If they come out with a more pro­gres­sive, lib­eral pol­icy, the at­tor­ney gen­eral is just go­ing to re­ject it. They need to con­vince the at­tor­ney gen­eral that the rec­om­men­da­tions are the best they can do with­out em­bar­rass­ing the en­tire depart­ment by im­ple­ment­ing a pol­icy that fails,” he said.

The task force sug­ges­tions are not fi­nal, and Ses­sions is in no way bound by them. The gov­ern­ment still has plenty of ways it can pun­ish weed-tol­er­ant states, in­clud­ing raid­ing pot busi­nesses and su­ing states where the drug is le­gal, a rare but quick path to com­pli­ance. The only one who could over­ride a dras­tic move by Ses­sions is Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, whose per­sonal views on mar­i­juana re­main mostly un­known. The Jus­tice Depart­ment de­clined to com­ment.

Rather than urg­ing fed­eral agents to shut down dis­pen­saries and make mass ar­rests, the task force puts forth a more fa­mil­iar ap­proach. Its re­port says of­fi­cials should con­tinue to op­pose rules that block the Jus­tice Depart­ment from in­ter­fer­ing with med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­grams in states where it is al­lowed. Ses­sions wrote to mem­bers of Congress in May ask­ing them - un­suc­cess­fully so far - to undo those pro­tec­tions. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion also un­suc­cess­fully op­posed those rules.

The re­port sug­gests team­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment with Trea­sury of­fi­cials to of­fer guid­ance to fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, telling them to im­ple­ment ro­bust an­ti­money laun­der­ing pro­grams and re­port sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing busi­nesses in states where pot is le­gal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.