Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his plan to crack down on marijuana sales Thursday, in what amounts to a massive rollback of Obama-era regulations that allowed the newly legal pot market to thrive.
While Sessions is a long time anti-marijuana crusader, one must assume that President Trump okayed the move. Predictably, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the president’s position on Sessions’s new policy on pot sales at her semi-regular press briefing today, and her answer, on the surface, seemed fine.
“The president believes in enforcing federal law. That would be his top priority, regardless of what the topic is, whether it’s marijuana or whether it’s immigration.” she said. “The president’s position hasn’t changed, but he does strongly believe that we have to enforce federal law.”
All fine and dandy, except for one thing. That hasn’t always been Trump’s position, not on marijuana, and not on states’ rights over federal law.
While he was running to secure the Republican nomination in 2016, he sat down with a reporter in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. That reported asked Trump specifically about states’ right vs. federal law as it pertained to marijuana sales, and he gave the exact opposite answer to the one Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave today.
Asked if he would use the DoJ to squash legal, recreational marijuana use, he said “I wouldn’t do that, no. I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
Don’t believe us? We have video to prove it:
— Brandon Rittiman (@BrandonRittiman) July 29, 2016
In short, Sarah Huckabee Sanders flat out lied, and the president, at the very least, completed one massive flip-flop, if her characterization of the president’s current position is indeed accurate.
While many states have decriminalized marijuana in recent years, the federal government has not. This disconnect affects legal marijuana farms and dispensaries – and the banks they do business with – who must report marijuana-related revenue to the IRS, which still considers those sales illegal. This loop hole left them vulnerable to federal prosecution on paper.
President Obama addressed this discrepancy by instructing his DoJ to defer to state laws on marijuana sales as its guiding principle when deciding who to prosecute. It’s this critical choke point that AG Sessions has targeted. His new directive makes it clear that federal laws will not simply be ignored in favor of looser state laws, putting legal marijuana businesses back in the cross hairs.
“In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions,” Sessions’s written order to all federal prosecutors sates.
“These principles require federal prosecutors deciding which cases to prosecute to weigh all relevant considerations of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community.”
Sessions is clearly putting states on notice. If his boss really is 100% on board as Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today, then we can officially add this to the growing list of President Trump’s broken promises.