I am a “bad news first” type, good news after, so here we go…  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now mentioned cannabis twice in the past week, most recently speaking at the National Association of Attorneys General’s annual winter meeting on February 28th.  Sessions said that the Department of Justice might begin more aggressive enforcement of federal laws against retail cannabis in eight states and Washington, D.C. who have already legalized it. “States, they can pass the laws they choose,” he said. “I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

This is a far cry from Trump’s campaign statement, saying “I think it’s up to the states.” Such enforcement could prove unpopular according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted earlier this month where 71 percent of respondents said the federal government should not enforce federal laws against cannabis in states that have legalized it.

Unfortunately, Sessions also criticized a column The Washington Post by Sam Kamin, professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver. Kamin argues that the opioid crisis is “a reason to expand access to marijuana rather than to contract it.” A 2016 study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found “adverse consequences of opioid use” decreased over time in states where cannabis is legalized because individuals substituted cannabis for opioids to treat pain, making the case that cannabis is an exit strategy rather than a gateway drug.

“Give me a break,” Sessions said. “This is the kind of argument that has been out there. [It’s] almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove me wrong. My best view is that we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana.”  Science has already proved this wrong, however one must acknowledge the science.

Sessions’ comments were similar to those of White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who predicted harsher prosecution of “recreational”, but not medical cannabis, under the Trump Administration at a recent press briefing.  “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” he said. Spicer clarified that Trump supports medical marijuana but “that’s very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

Need some good news?

  • An internal White House memo included the Office of National Drug Control Policy in a list of agencies that the administration is considering proposing for elimination.

  • The Congressional Cannabis Caucus officially launched.

  • On February 7th, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and a bipartisan group of 12 co-sponsors filed a bill to exempt from the Controlled Substances Act businesses in compliance with state regulations with respect to cannabis activity.  “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”

  • Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) today announced that they have reintroduced the Compassionate Access Act to reschedule cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD). The Compassionate Access Act would allow states to provide appropriate access for patients under the supervision of their physicians.

  • Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) introduced legislation to remove marihuana (yes, they still spell it this way) from the Controlled Substances Act altogether.


Dale headshot thumbnail 2Dale Sky Jones
Executive Chancellor
Oaksterdam University