California Today: What Jeff Sessions Could Mean for Legal Marijuana
President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice to lead the Justice Department has roiled California’s emerging marijuana industry.
Just as supporters of marijuana legalization were celebrating voters’ approval of the recreational use of the drug in the state, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama entered the picture as Mr. Trump’s choice for attorney general.
Cannabis is illegal under federal law, and if Mr. Sessions were to be confirmed, many supporters of legalization worry that his past remarks about marijuana could portend a crackdown.
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized,” Mr. Sessions said at a Senate hearing in April.
Thomas Fuller, our San Francisco bureau chief, wrote on Monday about the fragility of the truce that has existed between the federal government and states that have legalized the drug.
So, what are we to make of Mr. Sessions?
We asked John Hudak at the Brookings Institution to help explain. Mr. Hudak’s research has focused on state and federal marijuana policy. His book, “Marijuana: A Short History,” was published in October.
How worried should California’s emerging marijuana industry be about Mr. Sessions?
As attorney general, Sessions would have the ability to rescind two Justice Department directives — known as the Cole and Ogden memos — that called for stepping back from marijuana prosecutions. He could also use federal law enforcement power against operators and sue state regulators to block state systems. The only person who can stop the attorney general is the president, and it is unclear whether Trump will direct or delegate drug policy — the latter option being what should worry California the most.
Photo credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times