Jeff “good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, is preparing to launch a new front in the (ineffective) war on drugs.
While it’s difficult to imagine an attorney general who described pot smokers with such judgmental disdain would not go after recreational use, The Hill reported that the Justice Department — at Sessions’s behest — will announce a federal crackdown on marijuana next week, even in the eight states that have legalized recreational use.
In April, Sessions sent a memo to the DOJ and United States attorneys announcing the establishment of the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. The various subcommittees involved in the Task Force were instructed to review “existing policies in charging, sentencing, and marijuana” to be more “consistent” with an effort to reduce violent crime. Sessions requested recommendations by July 27, so they are coming.
If Sessions’s April memo was not explicit enough in linking pot to violent crime, it seems the Department’s recommendations will be crystal clear.
The Hill spoke to Inimai Chettiar, director of New York Univerisity’s Brennan Center for Justice, about Sessions’s forthcoming announcement. Chettiar indicated that she was anticipating the DOJ’s report would implicate pot in the rise of violent crime and Sessions would propose a crack down on its use.
Per The Hill:
“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.
“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”
Despite the fact that there is little evidence connecting violent crime and legalized marijuana, Sessions has led a crusade against weed for quite some time. In the 1980's Sessions, then a U.S. attorney in Alabama, allegedly said the Ku Klux Klan was “okay” until he found out they smoked pot.
So it should come as no surprise that in June, as Attorney General, he sent a letter to congress requesting the ability to prosecute medical-marijuana providers (medical-marijuana has been federally protected since 2014). In the letter, Sessions attempted to equate weed with the country’s opiate epidemic.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.
Given Sessions’s request to congress, it appears likely that Chettiar’s suspicions are valid. Sessions’s recommitment to civil asset forfeiture, even if suspects have yet to be charged with a crime, is another sign that he will come after pot since his April memo foreshadowed the DOJ’s newly announced policy.