Donald Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is expected to recommend the crackdown, which is supposedly taking place “in an effort to reduce the number of violent crimes.”
The expected crackdown is one that “criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling, and smoking the plant, reports The Hill.
Sessions sent a memo to U.S. Attorneys and others on the work of the Department of Justice task force, requesting review of “existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department’s overall strategy in reducing violent crime with the Administration goals and priorities.”
A February poll found that 71 percent of Americans oppose a federal marijuana crackdown.
“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Bennan Center’s Justice Program.
“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true,” Chettiar said.
“Our attorney general is giving everyone whiplash by trying to take us back to the 1960s,” California Democratic Representative Jared Huffman said.
Sessions: Marijuana Only Slightly Less Awful Than Heroin
Sessions in March called marijuana a “life-wrecking crisis,” saying it was “only slightly less awful” than using heroin.
“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” the Attorney General said. “And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”
“And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize. I don’t think we’re going to be a better community if marijuana is sold in every corner grocery store.”
License To Steal
Sessions has just laid the groundwork for his War On Marijuana. Last week, the Attorney General made it easier for law enforcement to “seize” cash, property and other assets from “drug suspects” through “civil asset forfeiture.” You’ll notice I said “suspects,” not “criminals.”
Under Sessions’ new rules, a return to the bad old pre-reform days, “suspects” don’t have to be convicted before their property is permanently taken. In fact, they don’t even have to be charged.
Trump, for his part, has called Colorado’s legalization of marijuana a “real problem.” But who knows what he really thinks about any given subject, since the story changes so often?
‘Backward and Inhumane’
Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) on Sunday slammed the Trump crackdown on marijuana, calling it “backward and inhumane.”
“I hope every third-party voting progressive remembers this,” Sen. Schatz tweeted. “There’s a real difference between R’s and D’s.” He added that Sessions is reversing eight years of progress toward a “more humane, less expensive, more just system” by focusing on punishing cannabis users with tougher sentences.
Dara Lind at Vox delineates the problem:
On criminal justice, Sessions has instructed US attorneys to take a much more aggressive line in charging drug, gun, and immigration offenses than they previously had — including undoing an Obama-era policy that allowed attorneys to avoid charging drug offenders with the harshest possible sentence, and instructing prosecutors to stick a federal immigration charge on any defendant who’d entered the US illegally. He’s expanded police powers to seize property from people who haven’t yet been convicted of a crime — including in states whose governments have banned the practice. He’s frozen Department of Justice efforts to oversee police departments accused of overly aggressive or discriminatory practices.
Former superintendent Ronal Serpas of the New Orleans Police Department, co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, considers such a “crackdown” to be entirely unnecessary, reports Sarah Pope at Weed Daily.
“From a practitioner’s point of view, marijuana is not a drug that doesn’t have some danger to it, but it’s not the drug that’s driving violent crime in America. That’s not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America. Crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and opioids is where we’re seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control.”
Graham: Useless and Clueless?
Though he claimed to believe in sentencing reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) actually agreed this week that there needs to be harsher marijuana enforcement.
While often seen as a more palatable face of the GOP, Graham was disappointing in his spineless response.
“I believe marijuana probably needs to be cracked down on, but we’ll see when he sends it over,” Graham said of the task force report.
CARERS Act Would Change Federal Policy
Legislation introduced last month by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Paul introduced — known as the The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act — would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies.
Trump last month pushed back against the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which contains Congressional ban on the DOJ interfering with state medical marijuana laws.
In his signing statement, Trump asserted that he isn’t “legally bound” by the limits on federal marijuana enforcement imposed by Congress, saying he reserved the right to enforce federal law in any state.
Rising Tensions Between Trump and Sessions
Since a very public rift has emerged between Trump and Sessions, the planned crackdown could be affected. If the Attorney General resigns, his seeming preoccupation with marijuana enforcement could possibly be reevaluated.
Trump, in a New York Times interview, whined that Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation was “very unfair” to him. Cheeto Jesus went even farther on Monday morning, calling Sessions “beleaguered” in an early morning tweet. The Alabama Senator had been one of Trump’s earliest and strongest supporters, raising questions about whether the Spray-Tan Superman was capable of reciprocating loyalty.
“The president initially bonded with Sessions because he saw him as a tough guy,” longtime ally Roger Stone said in an interview with The Times. “Now he’s saying: ‘Where’s my tough guy? Why doesn’t he have my back?’ There’s a lack of aggressiveness with Sessions, unless it involves chasing people for smoking pot.”