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By Steve Birr
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed shock at the swift public backlash to his fiery rhetoric on federal marijuana policy and his opposition to legalization.
Speaking on a range of issues at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona Tuesday, Sessions addressed his opposition to further easement of marijuana laws in states across the country. He also expressed confusion over the amount of attention his comments on marijuana during his confirmation hearing received, reports AZ Central.
Sessions, a stanch opponent of legalization, is currently reviewing the Cole Memorandum, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct DOJ to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws.
“When they nominated me for attorney general, you would have thought the biggest issue in America was when I said, ‘I don’t think America’s going to be a better place if they sell marijuana at every corner grocery store,’” Sessions said Tuesday, according to AZ Central. “(People) didn’t like that; I’m surprised they didn’t like that.”
Sessions also touched on the illegal immigration and border protection Tuesday, reiterating his belief that a wall and bolstered enforcement will greatly cut down on the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.
Sessions claimed in February “there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think, and there’s big money involved.” It is unclear how aggressive the administration will ultimately be on the issue, but officials in states with legalization laws are preparing for the worst.
The governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana, sent a letter to Sessions and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin April 3, imploring them to leave marijuana policy to the states.
The governors say they previously opposed legal weed but argue the policy is boosting revenue and helping reduce the “inequitable incarceration” of minority groups.
Sessions and the Trump administration could cost the marijuana industry hundreds of thousands of jobs if they interfere with state pot laws. A report released in February by New Frontier Data projects that an unimpeded marijuana market will create more than 250,000 jobs by 2020. The booming projections for growth stand in stark contrast to manufacturing jobs, which are expected to crater by more than 800,000 by 2024.