Congressional Marijuana Reformers Differ on Sessions as AG
Two of the leading supporters of marijuana law reform in Congress have starkly different predictions about what could happen to state cannabis policies if President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general is confirmed.
While Trump repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws on the campaign trail, his choice to lead the Department of Justice, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is an outspoken legalization opponent.
But Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California, a Republican who loyally backed Trump during the campaign, is optimistic that as the nation’s top law enforcement officer Sessions would let his general support for states’ rights outweigh his personal disdain for marijuana.
“This president has made clear that he believes in a states’ rights approach to marijuana,” he told Marijuana Business Dailylast week after the Sessions pick was announced. “And if the president is in favor of a states’ rights approach to marijuana, I am certain that Jeff Sessions, being a man of high integrity, will not be undermining his president’s position and [will] be enforcing what Trump wants rather than what Sessions has done in the past.”
Rohrabacher, whose name has been floated as a possible Trump nominee for secretary of state, has been a leading sponsor of successful amendments to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws, among other reforms.
In September, Rohrabacher said he has “spoken to Mr. Trump personally, and he has assured me that if he were to become president he intended to honor the states’ rights to medical marijuana laws.”
But another ardent champion of marijuana law reform in Congress isn’t so sure that the new administration can be trusted to follow through on Trump’s campaign pledges.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, says he wants the Senate to “do its job” by refusing to confirm Sessions as attorney general, saying, “The thought of Jeff Sessions at the helm of our justice system is deeply disturbing.”
A local TV station in Portland described Blumenauer as “wary” and “leery” of Sessions’s approach to marijuana following an interview.
Blumenauer, who advised Trump opponent Hillary Clinton on marijuana issues during the presidential campaign, has taken the lead on several drug policy reform measures in Congress, including amendments to increase military veterans’ access to medical cannabis.
Though concerned about what the Trump Justice Department’s approach to marijuana will be, Blumenauer maintains some optimism that things could work out. “I am hopeful that the next administration, regardless of the attorney general’s personal feelings, will respect the 10th Amendment and states’ rights to set their own policy in regards to cannabis,” he said.