Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to rescind the Obama-era policy that allowed states to decide on a case-by-case scenario whether to legalize marijuana could endanger a burgeoning industry and, some Republicans say, contradicts President Trump’s campaign platform in 2016.
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Early Thursday, the Department of Justice issued a memo in which it announced the return to the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which prohibited the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana. How that affects the eight states, and Washington, D.C., that have legalized recreational marijuana, or the 29 that have legalized medicinal usage, remains to be seen.
“It’s sad that the attorney general is veering so far off of what President Trump campaigned on,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney. “We have now an attorney general who does not seem to be what his boss was promising in the elections.”
The California Republican noted that Sessions identifies as a constitutional conservative, but suggested that the rollback of this policy could actually violate the 10th Amendment. He wasn’t the only Republican voice slamming Sessions.
Sen. Cory Gardner threatened in a tweet to hold DOJ nominees until Sessions “lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation,” warning that he was prepared to take “all steps necessary.” The reported dissolution of the law “directly contradicts” what Sessions had promised Gardner before his confirmation hearing, the Republican senator added in a subsequent tweet. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012.
Sessions faced criticism from across the aisle. A flurry of Democrats, including House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), lambasted the attorney general and the DOJ. California began allowing the sale of recreational marijuana on Monday. New Jersey allows for the use of medicinal marijuana.
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“No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that. Quite the contrary,” Sanders said in a statement.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump often touted the need for less-stringent marijuana laws and advocating for legal access to medical marijuana. With regard to adult, recreational use, Trump favored allowing states to decide.
“We have now the attorney general saying, ‘No, no, the federal government is going to make the decision on all of these issues for you,’” Rohrabacher said. “It’s totally contrary to the 10th Amendment and everything, supposedly, that conservatives believe in.”