Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, & Cannabis: Should We Worry?

By: Isaac Wolstenholm

The concern around the position of Attorney General and laws regarding cannabis have been raised in ever increasing amounts since the fresh-faced Jeff Sessions was announced in Fall of 2016 as a potential pick for the position by the then candidate Donald Trump. The days of election and inauguration of our now President, Donald Trump, have passed. Jeff Sessions’ recent approval by Senate to be Attorney General is causing our concerns to near their peak. Now, all that is left to worry us about the security of legalized Cannabis is Attorney General Sessions taking aim at State Cannabis laws allowing the medicinal and recreational usage. To address the concern we need to look at the power, responsibilities, and mobility that the Attorney General holds and what he oversees at the Department of Justice.

The specific responsibilities of the Attorney General of the United States are to represent the United States in all suits in the Supreme Court; to give their advice and opinion to the President of the United States and department heads on inquiries concerning the law. Clearly, an important, influential position, and generally very big-picture when it comes to the interpretation and implementation of the law.

The Department of Justice was created to distribute the duties of Attorney General amongst more people due to the sheer size of the Federal government and the workload it created. The Department of Justice in its current state exists to administrate the enforcement of laws passed by Congress at the Federal level. They have the responsibility of administrating the FBI and DEA, representing the United States Federal Government in legal matters, and to review actions of local law enforcement across the United States. This is a major key in understanding the autonomy that individual states have when it comes to laws regarding cannabis usage.

Overall, the position of Attorney General and the Justice Department as a whole is primarily supervisory. As the supervisors of law, they have to implement the laws sent forth by Congress and have little to do with the law making practice. Though the Attorney General may be consulted, he has little-to-no influence over which laws would be proposed or passed. In fact, in 2014 Congress passed a spending bill that restricts the Justice Department from using federal funds to challenge state legislature for as long as they remained in compliance with their respective state laws. However, that bill is required to be renewed annually. As we are mostly unsure of the President’s position on cannabis usage he expressed minor support for medicinal usage during his campaign. Attorney General Sessions himself can be quoted as saying that “it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide which laws to enforce,” which is absolutely true. Ultimately, we have to turn our focus to our state representatives, Senators, and members of Congress to represent and defend laws regarding cannabis. We may disagree with Jeff Sessions on his quote stating that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” but as long it is not the legislators that agree with him I think cannabis is legally safe.