During his confirmation hearing on the U.S. Senate floor yesterday, Judge Merrick Garland — President Joe Biden’s nominee for the new U.S. Attorney General — signaled a likely shift in federal law enforcement’s approach to state-legal cannabis markets.
Answering a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) about whether he would reinstate the Obama-era Cole Memo — which was rescinded by former President Trump’s first and staunchly anti-cannabis AG Jeff Sessions — Garland said, “This is a question of the prioritization of our resources and prosecutorial direction.”
“It does not seem to me a useful use of limited resources that we have, to be pursuing prosecutions in states that have legalized,” he said.
Garland also appeared to consider cannabis reforms to be an intrinsic step toward addressing the social justice issues around racial equality that continue to plague the nation, saying he was “deeply aware” of the issues that cannabis prohibition has caused for disadvantaged people, particularly in communities of color.
“Here’s a nonviolent crime, with respect to usage, that does not require us to incarcerate people, that we’re incarcerating at different rates, significantly different rates, of different communities. And that is wrong.” — Merrick Garland, during Monday’s Senate confirmation hearing
Garland noted that he supported the enforcement of federal cannabis laws in non-legalized states in order to ensure that there are “no end-runs around the state laws” by criminal enterprises.
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