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By Steve Birr
GOP Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions argued Congress ultimately needs to change federal pot laws if Americans do not want him to crackdown on states’ rights, leaving uncertainty within the marijuana industry.
Sessions, who started his confirmation hearing Tuesday for the post of attorney general, is a staunch opponent of marijuana reform and some activists worry his appointment may lead to further raids in states where marijuana is legal. Sessions fielded several questions on federal marijuana policy during the hearing. His answers, however, sent mixed signals and did not go far in clarifying whether he will be adversarial to states with legalization laws that contradict the federal government’s stance, reports Market Watch.
Trump promised to respect states’ rights on the issue during the campaign, but it is unclear if he will maintain that position once he is sworn into office.
“It’s not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce,” Sessions said during the hearing Tuesday, according to Market Watch. “We should do our jobs and enforce laws effectively as we’re able. The U.S. Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state – and the distribution – an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.”
Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states and Washington, D.C., where it is also legal for recreational use, and momentum for further legalization appears to be accelerating throughout the country. Advocates of marijuana legalization at the state and federal level are concerned Trump will take a hands-off approach to the enforcement of current state laws and give Sessions permission to push a pro-marijuana prohibition agenda.
Some marijuana activists are optimistic for a Trump presidency however, expecting at the very least he won’t focus on enforcement of federal law, much like the Obama administration over the past eight years. Sessions signaled during the hearing he may exercise a good degree of discretion on whether enforcement of federal pot laws is a responsible use of resources.
“I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, [Sen. Patrick Leahy], but absolutely it’s a problem of resources for the federal government,” Sessions said Tuesday, according to Market Watch. “Good judgement on how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine, which won’t be an easy decision, but I will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”