Sessions has sent a letter to Washington State officials criticizing the implementation of marijuana legalization there. Sessions cites a law enforcement report that he claims “raises serious questions about the efficacy of marijuana ‘regulatory structures’ in your state.”
The Attorney General quotes passages from the report on interstate diversion, use by minors, and driving under the influence, all implications of the federal Cole Memo.
This is crucial because the Cole Memo, issued during the Obama Administration, laid out the requirements for state cannabis regulation in order to avoid federal raids. For Atty. Gen. Sessions to claim these requirements aren’t effectively being met means that he’s claiming the right to conduct federal drug raids.
“These findings are relevant to the policy debate concerning marijuana legalization,” Sessions wrote to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats.
Sessions’ July 24 missive was responding to a Feb. 15 letter sent by Inslee and Ferguson. The letter sought clarity on federal policy towards legal cannabis.
Both Gov. Inslee and Atty. Gen. Ferguson have vowed to defend Washington state’s legal marijuana law against a federal crackdown, reports Bob Young at the The Seattle Times.
Washington Will Resist Crackdown
“I will resist any efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the will of the voters in Washington state,” Ferguson said in February. Gov. Inslee, for his part, said this is not a fight that Trump should pick. “They would be on the wrong side of history,” Inslee said.
Sessions’ tone, though, was tough and controversial in his letter:
“[P]lease advise as to how Washington plans to address the findings in the Northwest HIDTA report, including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors. I also am open to suggestions on marijuana policy and related matters as we work to carry out our duties to effectively and faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”
Among cannabis advocates, the letter adds to already heightened concern about the possibility of a federal marijuana crackdown under the Trump Administration.
I also read with interest the statement in your letter that you “have worked … to establish robust regulatory structures that prioritize public health and public safety,” and that you believe that the 2013 Cole Memorandum, its eight enforcement priorities, and related memoranda are an “indispensable” part of the “framework” in your state. In that regard, I would note the concluding paragraph: “nothing herein [in the Cole Memorandum] precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence of any one of the factors listed above, in particular circumstances where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important federal interest.” Thus, the memorandum “does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including federal laws relating to marijuana, regardless of state law.”
Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Having established, at least in his mind, that Washington state doesn’t adequately regulate its legal cannabis market, and thus is subject to federal raids, Atty. Gen. Sessions then throws down the gauntlet with a direct challenge:
These findings are relevant to the policy debate concerning marijuana legalization. I appreciate your offer to engage in a continuing dialogue on this important issue. To that end, please advise as to how Washington plans to address the findings in the Northwest HIDTA report, including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors.
It seems obvious that drug warrior Sessions, long an ardent foe of cannabis and the people who use it, is very methodically laying the groundwork to justify federal raids on Washington state as part of a crackdown. He plans to blame the crackdown on the state’s supposed “failure” to enforce its state marijuana laws, to combat diversion out of state, to “protect public health and safety,” and to prevent pot use by minors.