Jeff Sessions: DOJ Won't Back Down On Marijuana Laws

By Bryan Le 07/30/18

“States have a right to set their own laws and will do so, and we will follow the federal law,” Sessions said.

Senator Jeff Sessions arrives before the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade at the White House reviewing stand in Washington D.C., Jan. 20, 2017.
Sessions really doesn't like marijuana. Photo via

At a Boston press conference about a federal sting operation that busted about two dozen people on immigration fraud, reporters went a bit off topic and asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about individual states’ rights to create and enforce their own marijuana laws.

Sessions was clear in his anti-marijuana stance, affirming that under his purview the Department of Justice will follow federal marijuana laws. “States have a right to set their own laws and will do so, and we will follow the federal law,” Sessions responded to the question.

Earlier this year, Sessions wrote a memo that reversed a decision by the Obama-era Department of Justice to be more hands-off when it comes to states that have legalized marijuana. “The previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission,” he wrote.

The question at the Boston press conference was pertinent because two years ago, the state of Massachusetts legalized marijuana, but as of now still has not set up systems for its retail sale and purchase in the state. If Sessions goes after Massachusetts dispensaries, it would be disastrous for such a budding industry.

“The American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner,” Sessions expanded on his answer.

The sentiment was reflective of a statement the attorney general made during a 2016 Senate hearing: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Despite the threats he’s made about marijuana, Massachusetts cannabis regulators are not worried. They’re confident even after they start retailing marijuana in their state, that the federal government will not intrude.

Steve Hoffman, the chairperson of the Cannabis Control Commision, believes that a recent statement from one of Sessions’ federal attorneys, Andrew Lelling, seems to suggest that federal policy still resembles the previous hands-off policy.

Federal focus around marijuana enforcement, according to Lelling, is focused on three things: making sure marijuana isn’t being passed to illegal markets, making sure it isn’t being distributed to minors, and cracking down on criminals seeking to transport marijuana across state lines.

Hoffman is confident that the measures Massachusetts is putting in place will address these three priorities and thus the state will not draw Sessions’ ire.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter