Newly confirmed U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions made his first public remarks on cannabis yesterday, telling reporters the Department of Justice will attempt “responsible policies” regarding enforcement of federal cannabis laws.
Sessions – who once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan were “OK until I found out they smoked pot” – added that he doesn’t believe the country would be better off with increased cannabis consumption.
“I am definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” said Sessions. “But states, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”
The 70-year-old added that he believes potent strains of pot leave users prone to violence.
“I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that,” he said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
Studies have found no correlation between the legalization of cannabis and violent crime rates.
So far eight U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
Sessions also said the DOJ is reviewing a memo drafted under President Obama that enabled states to pass their own cannabis laws.
One of Sessions’ predecessors, Eric Holder, was hired last month as the new attorney general of California, one of the states to legalize recreational use. It was under his watch that the DOJ released the Cole Memo, which essentially instructed federal officials not to prosecute cannabis businesses in legalized states as long as they didn’t violate certain provisions, such as not selling to minors or diverting product to the underground market or states without legalized cannabis.
Sessions’ message is similar to that of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who last week predicted “greater enforcement” of federal laws against adult-use marijuana businesses, while also indicating that medical cannabis companies would most likely be left alone.