Ses­sions is ‘du­bi­ous’ about mar­i­juana sales

He ques­tions health of na­tion as states OK recre­ational use.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Rob Ho­takainen

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said Tues­day that he is “du­bi­ous about mar­i­juana,” hint­ing that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could be ready to block states from sell­ing it for recre­ational use.

“States, you know, can pass what­ever laws they choose, but I’m not sure we’re go­ing to be a bet­ter, health­ier na­tion if we have mar­i­juana be­ing sold at every cor­ner gro­cery store,” he said in a speech at the winter meet­ing of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of At­tor­neys Gen­eral. “We’ll have to work our way through that.”

Ses­sions made his re­marks af­ter White House Press Sec­re­tary Sean Spicer told re­porters Thurs­day that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice would use the fed­eral law ban­ning mar­i­juana to crack down on recre­ational pot sales while al­low­ing states to reg­u­late the drug for med­i­cal use.

Vot­ers in eight states have le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana: Washington, Colorado, Cal­i­for­nia, Mas­sachusetts, Maine, Ne­vada, Ore­gon and Alaska.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Jus­tice Depart­ment gave states the green light to tax and reg­u­late the drug as long as they promised to do a good job of polic­ing them­selves. But it will be up to Ses­sions to de­cide whether he wants to con­tinue the largely hands-off ap­proach or lead a new na­tional crack­down.

Le­gal­iza­tion back­ers were quick to crit­i­cize Ses­sions for sug­gest­ing that pot might be sold “at every cor­ner gro­cery store.”

“No states al­low this,” said Tom An­gell, chair­man of Mar­i­juana Ma­jor­ity, a pro­le­gal­iza­tion group.

As a can­di­date, Trump said that he would leave the ques­tion of le­gal­iza­tion to in­di­vid­ual states. But his choice of Ses­sions in Novem­ber set off im­me­di­ate panic among le­gal­iza­tion back­ers.

Ses­sions, a long­time op­po­nent of le­gal­iza­tion as a for­mer Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Alabama, caused a stir last year when he said at a Se­nate hear­ing that “good peo­ple don’t smoke mar­i­juana.”

At his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing in Jan­uary, Ses­sions gave con­flict­ing sig­nals on what he would do.

When Ses­sions was asked at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing whether he would use fed­eral re­sources to in­ves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute sick peo­ple who use med­i­cal mar­i­juana, he replied: “I won’t com­mit to never en­forc­ing fed­eral law.” But he also said that en­forc­ing the law is “a prob­lem of re­sources for the fed­eral govern­ment.” And he said that Obama’s Jus­tice Depart­ment had set out poli­cies that are “truly valu­able in eval­u­at­ing cases.”

Ses­sions in Tues­day’s speech also painted a grim vi­sion of vi­o­lence in Amer­ica, telling state law en­force­ment of­fi­cials that a re­cent uptick in killings threat­ens to undo decades of progress and sug­gest­ing po­lice would be more ef­fec­tive if they were sub­jected to less fed­eral scru­tiny.

“We need to help po­lice depart­ments get bet­ter, not di­min­ish their ef­fec­tive­ness, and I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” Ses­sions told the gath­er­ing. “So we’re go­ing to try to pull back on this. I don’t think it’s wrong or mean or in­sen­si­tive to civil rights or hu­man rights. It’s out of a con­cern to make the lives of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in poor com­mu­ni­ties, mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties, live a safer, hap­pier life.”

Ses­sions will de­cide whether he wants to con­tinue with fed’s hands-off ap­proach to pot.

JIM LOSCALZO / TNS

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions: “I’m not sure we’re go­ing to be a bet­ter, health­ier na­tion if we have mar­i­juana be­ing sold at every cor­ner gro­cery store.”

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