Inside of a cannabis cultivation site in Washington state.

Sarah Climaco

AG Jeff Sessions Indicates No Plan to Scrap Cole Memo

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters on Wednesday that he may maintain cannabis industry guidelines set in place by the Obama Administration for the federal tolerance of state-legal cannabis markets, according to a report by Tom Angell.

Mr. Sessions recently said that he would be reviewing the Cole Memo of 2013, but now it appears he may leave it in place — with a few possible adjustments.

“The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,” Sessions said in a question-and-answer session following a speech in Virginia.

“I may have may have some different ideas myself in addition to [the memo],” he added; however he suggested that the sudden enforcement of federal prohibition across all legalized states would be unfeasible.

“Essentially we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades,” he said.

While these words are likely comforting for many cannabis business owners — the Cole Memo is after all just a memo, which the U.S. Attorney General absolutely has the power to scrap — it is clear that Mr. Sessions’ personal stance on cannabis remains toxic.

In today’s speech, given just moments before answering reporters’ questions, he said:

“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”

While Mr. Sessions deserves some credit for at least recognizing the fact that cannabis is less harmful than heroin, one could wonder why he classifies it as only “slightly less awful” when there remain zero recorded deaths attributed to its use. Meanwhile, alcohol — a fully legal substance — claims more American lives than heroin and prescription drug overdoses combined.

The attorney general did address the difference between medical and recreational marijuana, acknowledging, “it’s possible that some dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial” — but he argued that smoking is a poor method of administering “a medicinal amount.”

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