Marijuana

Sessions Offers Unclear, Useless Answers on Marijuana During Confirmation Hearing

Says he won't commit "to never enforcing federal law" but that doesn't tell us much of anything.

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Ron Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

Senators on both sides of the aisle pressed their colleague Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) on Tuesday to flesh out his views on state-level marijuana laws, but president-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the next attorney general downplayed his history of being a hardline drug warrior.

Instead, we got vague and unconvincing answers about how Sessions views the relationship between the states and the federal government.

"I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state and the distribution of it an illegal act," Sessions said when questioned by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). "If that's something that's not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not much the attorney general's job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able."

As a matter of basic civics, yes, Sessions is right about all that. Congress should be the ones to decide when marijuana is legal or illegal at the federal level and the Justice Department is supposed to enforce the laws, not make them. That's hardly a controversial or revealing statement.

Practically, though, Sessions would have tremendous power as attorney general to decide exactly what "enforce laws effectively as we are able" means. Without needing approval from Congress, Sessions could send federal agents to arrest growers, shut down dispensaries, and freeze the bank accounts of marijuana businesses.

In the past, Sessions has encouraged the federal government to take a more activist approach to enforcing marijuana prohibition. In an April hearing about recreational marijuana laws in the states, Sessions observed that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and longed for the days when the federal government was more aggressive in going after drug dealers and users.

If Sessions brings that approach to the executive branch, his decisions on marijuana policy could have huge implications for individuals and businesses in states where forms of marijuana have been legalized and could change the landscape for further state-level marijuana policy changes in coming years.

As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) pointed out during Tuesday's confirmation hearing, even Sessions' home state of Alabama has legalized a marijuana derivative known as cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, for the treatment of some medical conditions. Leahy asked whether Sessions, as attorney general, would allow such laws to stand.

"I won't commit to never enforcing federal law," Session said. "But absolutely it's a problem of resources for the federal government."

Again, this is not an informative answer.

"We are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions' plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday," said Erik Altieri, executive director for NORML, which lobbies for marijuana reform at the state and federal level. "If Sessions wants to be attorney general for all Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention."

Sean Spicer, Trump's spokesman, was asked about Sessions' views on marijuana legalization during a Tuesday appearence on Fox News, but offered more vaguries.

During the Obama administration, eight states legalized recreational marijuana and dozens of state-level medical marijuana laws were passed. Marijuana remains completely illegal at the federal level. It is included on the federal Schedule I list, a set of drugs considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration to have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," including heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

More states are likely to approve marijuana for recreational and medicinal use in the coming years, but the federal government would have the power to crack down on those reforms, if the Justice Department wanted to do so.

That's why we need to hear more specifics from Sessions about how he would approach the question of marijuana federalism. Lee let his colleague off the hook too easily on Tuesday—hopefully other members of the Senate will force Sessions to revisit the issue when the confirmation hearing resumes on Wednesday.

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  1. He’s been in the Senate long enough to know don’t win a lot of votes with specifics.

    1. As a matter of basic civics, yes, Sessions is right about all that. Congress should be the ones to decide when marijuana is legal or illegal.

      Umm… No.

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  2. Kabuki Theater

  3. So why don’t these senators push to repeal Fed MJ laws, instead of asking the AG to ignore the laws?

    *checks ear mic*

    Oh, it’s a convenient political cudgel, so fuck those people ground up by the state.

    1. What answer were the Senators at the hearing fishing for? I can’t imagine all of them were marching away from the drug war.

      1. My guess is a gotcha quote. The dems get to play cool with MJ without spending their political capitol doing anything about it.

  4. It is included on the federal Schedule I list, a set of drugs considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” including heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

    Just to clarify, aren’t all of those substances supposed to have some pain relief or therapeutic uses?

    1. I know heroin is a pain reliever and ecstasy has been used for PTSD therapy, not sure about LSD.

      1. Evidently LSD has been used in conjunction with psychotherapy, if you buy into that stuff.

        1. I need another psychotherapy session.

          1. I’m sure you do.

        2. I saw something on Netflix that suggests having children under the influence of LSD can imbue them with psychic abilities–telekinesis, that sort of thing. And let’s face it, if you want a psychic ability, telekinesis is the one you want.

          I certainly don’t want to know what other people are thinking. Most of them are like Tony. You know how if dogs could talk, all they’d ever talk about is food? It’s hard enough dealing with the stupid shit most people say out loud–after they’ve thought about it.

          Besides, if you can pick people up in the air with your mind and through them around, you already know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking, “Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy Shit!”

          1. ” And let’s face it, if you want a psychic ability, telekinesis is the one you want.”

            Really? Stephen King wrote two novels about girls with telekinetic abilities, and it’s a real hassle…mean girls are always dumping blood on you, and the CIA is always trying to kidnap you.

          2. If “teleportation” counts as a “psychic ability”, that one’s my personal choice.

            But really, it all depends on scope and scale. I mean, if your telekinesis is limited to “stuff I could normally lift, but at a distance”? Then neat, but not that useful. If it’s “I can shove cars out of the way so I can take my perfect parking spot”? A lot more interesting.

            Similarly, does telepathy come with mind control? Surface thoughts or deep probes? Can you turn it off, or are you always hearing what others think?

            There’s a lot of questions here, ya know?

            1. I find that a tinfoil hats shuts off the noise of all but the loudest thinkers.

            2. I want enough juice to telekinetically fling annoying cars into orbit around the earth.

          3. Yeah, but then your kids telepathy accidentally opens up a gateway to a shadowy hell dimension and creatures start abducting people into it and feeding on them.

            1. It took me three or four attempts to get through the first episode. I could hardly make myself watch it.

              By the end, I was hooked. It doesn’t start well.

              1. Mrs. Designate and i binge watched the first season on Sunday. The 1st episode was probably the weakest one but i really enjoyed the whole series.

          4. if dogs could talk, all they’d ever talk about is food? It’s hard enough dealing with the stupid shit most people say out loud–after they’ve thought about it.

            Besides, if you can pick people up in the air with your mind and through them around, you already know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking, “Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy Shit!”

            FTFY.

        3. I think mushrooms would be easier to control, but who knows

        4. Some Canadian hospitals were having great success in the 60s treating alcoholism with LSD. That got shut down, though, since the US government determined it has no medical use and banned it, and IIRC demanded that Canada ban it, too.

          1. It was so bad in the US they had to throw Tim Leary in prison for ten years for possessing two pot roaches. Then he broke up, of course, but still.

      2. MDMA treatment for PTSD just received FDA approval for the final stages of research, which is awesome.

        1. Yes, it is so awesome when permission has been granted.

          1. If the choices are between self-treatment, underground treatment if you are lucky enough to know someone, or being relegated to group therapy and anti-depressants, it is awesome. I also think showing that scary, illegal drugs that are scary have legitimate, FDA-approved treatment will do a lot to lessen the drug war.

            1. Its not as if I disagree….but I had to contend with some hard core Clovers today and that perturbed me.

      3. “In 1990, the FDA began researching possible psychedelics (including LSD and psilocybin) use for treating cluster headaches, depression, obsessive compulsion disorder, severe anxiety in cancer patients, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, and addiction.”

    2. Idk man, let’s trek into the woods and find out!

    3. The DEA isn’t run by non-partisan doctors.

      So to answer your question in an entirely unsatisfactory way: irrelevant.

  5. Trump says that he’ll respect the marijuana laws in the states, that the states should decide.

    Ultimately, it’s up to Congress to change the law. We’re at the mercy of Presidents and Attorney Generals on the issue of marijuana because that’s apparently the way Congress wants it to be.

    You’d think the progressives would be all over a federal law protecting recreational marijuana where it’s legal considering that recreational marijuana states (California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Massachusetts), all voted for Hillary Clinton.

    However, the voters legalized recreational marijuana through plebiscites in those states because they had to legalize it over the objections of the elitists that run the Democratic party–even at the state level of the state legislatures.

    1. The Progs don’t want legal recreational weed. They are afraid of the inevitable backlash that will happen when too many people are on weed.

  6. “”I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state and the distribution of it an illegal act,” Sessions said when questioned by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able.””

    It’s not the attorney general’s job to decide whether to enforce the Tenth Amendment, either. What would be so awful about saying that the 5-justice majority in the Raich case was wrong, and the 4-justice minority was right, and therefore the federal government has no power to interfere with these state laws?

    Congress and the Supreme Court aren’t the supreme law of the land, the Constitution is – the feds have no authority to ignore the 10th Amendment, and “but Congress and the Supreme Court said we could do it” is simply a Nuremberg defense, yes, I went there.

    1. Has Congress actually ever declared MJ and the other Schedule I drugs to be illegal – or have they only delegated the power to do so to the DEA?

      1. Congress so declared MJ & many of the other drugs in schedule 1. Originally Congress said it was temporary placement of MJ, but in later amendments took out the reference to its being temporary.

    2. The answer that would have impressed me more would be that drugs laws are unconstitutional, so I will not be enforcing them. Congress should repeal the unconstitutional laws but that that is their job.

      There is no authorization in the constitution to justify the federal government telling Americans what they can and cannot consume.

    3. You went to Nuremberg? I went to Puerto Rico.

  7. “As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) pointed out during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, even Sessions’ home state of Alabama has legalized a marijuana derivative known as cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, for the treatment of some medical conditions. Leahy asked whether Sessions, as attorney general, would allow such laws to stand.”

    Wait, what happened to the Rohrabacher Amendment?

  8. I think we need a new schoolhouse rock on bills. Clearly, no one knows who’s in charge

  9. Trump could sew up a second term right now by committing to abandon Marijuana prohibition.

    -jcr

    1. I don’t understand why Obama didn’t have the balls to do this. All I can think is that the Drug War is just way to lucrative to curtail.

      1. It employs a lot of people. Law enforcement unions alone would never forgive the pol who took it away from them.

      2. That’s what Hillary said.

      3. It doesn’t build the same kind of legacy as “health care reform”. In the circles Obama travels in, the drug war is an afterthought (if it’s even opposed). He gets to score some brownie points with his 11th hour commutations, but he will be lauded for the ACA by the people whose opinions he cares about for a long time. Rescheduling marijuana would not have gotten him the same recognition.

  10. Senator Sessions – where in the US Constitution does it authorize the war on drugs?

    Sessions – can I get back to you on this?

    Yes, but be quick. On of the worst things the government can do to anyone is to arrest and jail them for an unjustified crime.

    1. Well, it doesn’t and the war on drugs is obviously unconstitutional. But that doesn’t matter because at least half of Americans have accepted that it’s ok to throw someone in a cage over consuming a plant.

      1. At least half of Americans used to accept it.

    2. ^ This

      “I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state and the distribution of it an illegal act,” Sessions said when questioned by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able.”

      Lee’s followup should have been, “And what enumerated power in Article 1 Section 8 of the constitution covers making any drug illegal?”

  11. Forgive me if I’m wrong here, but cannot a president, with his pen and phone, just de-schedule cannabis? Or does that actually have to be a vote in Congress? I’m not arguing one way or the other, just curious.

    1. According to the Wikipedias, yes.

      1. I in no way expect this to happen, but if Trump were a true political genius, he would de-schedule cannabis AND close Gitmo on the first day of his presidency. It would send the left into a complete implosion from which they would never recover.

    2. but cannot a president, with his pen and phone, just de-schedule cannabis

      Not exactly. It has to be done by the AG with the recommendation of HHS. It would be more difficult than just signing an executive order but still a lot easier than getting it through Congress. Of course, Congress could override the decision by forcing marijuana to remain Schedule I.

  12. “I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law,” Session said. “But absolutely it’s a problem of resources for the federal government.”

    Again, this is not an informative answer.”

    How the hell is that uninformative? It tells me exactly what I want to know. Let me interpret that for you: “I’m damn sure going to do those things if I have the budget to do it and can get away with it in the current political climate concerning cannabis.” Or more to the point: “Hell yes I want to do exactly that and I hope I can!”

    There is absolutely nothing ambiguous here.

    1. Government’s chief law enforcement officer says he won’t refuse to enforce laws.

      Film at 11.

  13. I think it’s more dangerous to have an attorney general that doesn’t enforce the laws of Congress than does, regardless of how arbitrary the law (that is for the court’s to decide). And if a ‘majority of the population’ does support decriminalization than Congress should act. Call me old fashioned but I don’t care for despots, even if he is an enlightened despot. Congress passes laws, the executive enforces it- that’s the way it goes.

    I support for legalization, by the way

    1. Lickinghole Creek makes a beer called the “Enlightened Despot”. Extremely high in alcohol.

      If weed is legalized, such craft brewers could make brews with an extra special kick.

    2. In a perfect America, that WOULD work. The majority of Americans want a stupid law repealed, the Representatives and Senators see that the majority of their constituents want that stupid law repealed, they pass an act repealing that stupid law and the President signs it, no more stupid law.

      Unfortunately, there’s enough red tape in the political process to make 3M a solid stock option.

      The majority of Americans want a stupid law repealed, the Representatives and Senators see that the majority of their constituents want that stupid law repealed, the act to repeal the stupid law in introduced, lobbyists for those unions and corporations that make tons of money off that stupid law flood Capitol Hill and start greasing the palms of the Representatives and Senators, suddenly the act is stalled in committee and ultimately ends up in the trash. Stupid law stays where it is.

      And it’s even worse in Texas, where the opportunity to pass reform laws is available only 6 months out of every 2 years.

      It’s in this situation that I don’t blame those wanting to find ways around the process.

      1. Democrats like pot illegal. It’s a great wedge issue for them. Palooka Joe brought this up again last night over beers.

  14. “It is included on the federal Schedule I list, a set of drugs considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” including heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.” Current research is showing the promising potential of psychedelics like LSD and MDMA to tread the symptoms of depression. Anecdotally, it works. If you know someone with severe depression, go out and party one night a month and observe the results. No joke. You might even have a good time!

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  16. It’s helpful to consider the worst case scenario. – At worst Sessions could close down stores and large commercial grows. – The feds cannot force state and local police to go against state law and arrest consumers.

    In the eight legal states (and to varying degree in the 28 medical marijuana states) it will always be legal to possess, consume, grow and give away small amounts of marijuana. – This is the form of legalization achieved in Washington, D.C.

    So, at worst, we would all be on the D.C. model for a few years. – Then, with the sky falling nowhere, restrictions on sales would gradually fade.

    It’s also encouraging to note that one of Trump’s transition team members is Peter Thiel. He is a major backer of the Marley Natural line of marijuana products. The same goes for Trump’s apparent choice of head for the FDA, Jim O’Neill.

    https://www.marleynatural.com/

  17. I can see what your saying… Raymond `s article is surprising, last week I bought a top of the range Acura from making $4608 this-past/month and-a little over, $10,000 this past month . with-out any question its the easiest work I’ve ever had . I began this five months/ago and almost straight away startad bringin in minimum $82 per-hr
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