Hark back to the beginning of the year and a day wouldn’t go by without a memo, press statement or announcement by or on behalf of the US Attorney General, cajoling, advising and threatening all the usual suspects.
We thought a quick little exercise to actually date when we last heard from the Senator from Alabama on the subject of cannabis.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 was the last media release from the AG’s dept that touched on Cannabis without actually mentioning the word. The applicable sentence being, and dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs (18 U.S.C. § 3591(b)(1)). I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation.”
Here’s the full release
Attorney General Sessions Issues Memo to U.S. Attorneys on the Use of Capital Punishment in Drug-Related Prosecutions
Today Attorney General Sessions issued the following memo to U.S. Attorneys providing guidance regarding the use of capital punishment in drug-related prosecutions:
“The opioid epidemic has inflicted an unprecedented toll of addiction, suffering, and death on communities throughout our nation. Drug overdoses, including overdoses caused by the lethal substance fentanyl and its analogues, killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016 and now rank as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. In the face of all of this death, we cannot continue with business as usual.
“Drug traffickers, transnational criminal organizations, and violent street gangs all contribute substantially to this scourge. To combat this deadly epidemic, federal prosecutors must consider every lawful tool at their disposal. This includes designating an opioid coordinator in every district, fully utilizing the data analysis of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, as well as using criminal and civil remedies available under federal law to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for unlawful practices.
“In addition, this should also include the pursuit of capital punishment in appropriate cases. Congress has passed several statutes that provide the Department with the ability to seek capital punishment for certain drug-related crimes. Among these are statutes that punish certain racketeering activities (18 U.S.C. § 1959); the use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(j)); murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise (21 U.S.C. § 848(e)); and dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs (18 U.S.C. § 3591(b)(1)). I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation.”
Although there are many hints at policing and managing the cannabis market in various statements , speeches and releases the last outright press release from the AG’s dept concerning Cannabis directly was published on Thursday, January 4, 2018 in which the Justice Department issued that memo on Marijuana Enforcement
The Department of Justice today issued a memo on federal marijuana enforcement policy announcing a return to the rule of law and the rescission of previous guidance documents. Since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970, Congress has generally prohibited the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana.
In the memorandum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directs all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities. This return to the rule of law is also a return of trust and local control to federal prosecutors who know where and how to deploy Justice Department resources most effectively to reduce violent crime, stem the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantle criminal gangs.
“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”
So what of press and media. There’s been very little in the last 8-12 weeks but as the San Diego Tribune recently wrote in an op-ed dated 16 April 2018, “Donald Trump calls off Jeff Sessions’ war on marijuana. Good, but …”
Yet given the president’s history of contradicting — even humiliating — top aides like Sessions and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with out-of-the-blue policy pronouncements, it’s difficult to be confident that the White House has finally abandoned Sessions’ reefer madness
Given the president’s history of belittling Sessions on Twitter, no one would be surprised by the attorney general’s abrupt departure. But if Sessions makes a decision Trump likes — say, hamstringing special counsel Robert Mueller — would his reward be another sharp swing, one back toward pot paranoia? That would also not be a surprise.
And do you remember that open letter at the end of March from various state leaders wanting to talk to Sessions about issues like a banking solution for the sector. That didn’t seem to get very far.
Here’s the relevant press release
Treasurer Chiang and Cannabis Consortium Send Letter to AG Sessions Calling for Meeting to Discuss Conflict between Federal, State Law
PR18:19 Mar. 29, 2018
Contact: Marc Lifsher
SACRAMENTO — California State Treasurer John Chiang and nine other members of a newly established, multi-state consortium of states with some form of legalized cannabis use sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, seeking a meeting to resolve a conflict between federal and state law.
Consortium members — four state treasurers, cannabis industry representatives and other stakeholders – want to work with Sessions to create banking services and a safe business and legal environment for growers, distributors and sellers, and financial institutions in the 29 states where cannabis is legal for medical or adult recreational consumption.
“This is not just a blue state phenomenon but includes purple and red states in every corner of our country,” the letter’s authors wrote. “A majority of Americans now live in states where they have decided to legalize cannabis.”
California voters in 2016 approved an initiative to legalize cannabis use, beginning on January 1 of this year.
The need to communicate with Sessions is urgent since federal law conflicts with many state statutes by maintaining cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance akin to heroin and LSD. The dichotomy between federal and state law has made it difficult for cannabis firms to open bank accounts and forced them to deal in cash, creating a threat to public safety.
The letter’s signers said they are particularly concerned about Sessions’ rescission of the so-called Cole Memoranda, a directive issued by President Obama’s administration that spelled out the conditions that would allow for financial institutions to provide essential banking services to cannabis businesses operating in states where cannabis use had been legalized.
“We believe we can work together and achieve a solution that recognizes that more and more Americans are living in states where they have decided to legalize cannabis while balancing the important law enforcement issues the Cole Memos tried to account for,” the letter said.
Treasurer Chiang has been in the forefront of grappling with the problem of the lack of banking services for the nascent cannabis industry. He established an 18-member Cannabis Banking Working Group that held six public meetings around the state and heard from more than 50 experts.
The working group came up with a number of recommendations that were outlined in a report issued in November 2017. The recommendations include the creation of a multi-state consortium to advocate for changes in federal law to ensure that the cannabis industry and its customers operate safely, transparently and according to the will of the voters.
Full text of the letterConsortium-letter-to-Sessions-3.29.18-SIGNED
So.. if you’ve managed to get this far. Jeff may well be on the back foot but don’t count him out.
He’s outlived all those other administration names that are disappearing into the mists of time.
He’s still on message with his anti drugs campaign, it’s just that he’s chosen his battles and sensibly so with campaigns on opioids and fentanyl. Give him the opportunity to come back on cannabis and you can be assured he will.