Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he is “not a fan” of the expanded use of marijuana during an exchange with reporters on Monday, parroting the Trump Administration’s vow that there will be “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws.
“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said, per Politico. “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.”
Sessions further said at a speech to state attorneys general on Tuesday morning that he’s not sure “we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.”
Sessions also called the argument that marijuana can be used to treat opioid addiction “a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana,” during his Tuesday morning speech, echoing Sean Spicer’s comments comparing marijuana use with opioid addiction at a press briefing on Thursday.
Studies have shown that states with legalised marijuana have seen a drop in opioid-related fatalities.
“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” Sessions said. “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 Justice Department’s approach to marijuana regulation is outlined in the 2013 “Cole Memorandum,” which stipulates that the DOJ place “low priority” on enforcing marijuana laws against businesses and organisations that comply with state laws.
Sessions said that the memo is under review, though he did not clarify whether the Justice Department will commit to stricter enforcement in states where marijuana is legal, reports Politico.
“We’re going to look at it … and try to adopt responsible policies,” Sessions said.
Lawmakers from states with legal marijuana, however, have vowed to challenge Sessions on marijuana enforcement.
“My office will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the federal government does not undermine Washington’s successful, unified system for regulating recreational and medical marijuana,” Bob Ferguson, Washington’s attorney general, said on Thursday.
“I will also be very clear with AG Sessions that I will defend the will of Washington voters,” Ferguson added.
Sessions further said that experts have told him there is “more violence around marijuana,” than one would think.
“You can’t sue somebody for a drug debt,” Sessions said, on Monday. “The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that.”
Tom Angell, of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, told Business Insider that by discussing marijuana and violence, Sessions inadvertently articulated one of the strongest arguments for legalization: Regulated markets.
“The only connection between marijuana and violence is the one that exists when illegal sellers battle it out for profits in the black market,” Angell said. “A growing number of states are showing that legalization is generating revenues, creating jobs, and reducing crime.”
Mason Tvert, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement that it’s “hard to imagine” why the federal government would want marijuana to be produced and sold by criminals rather than “tightly regulated, taxpaying” businesses.
Anti-marijuana advocates, however, were heartened by the Trump Administration’s messaging.
“This isn’t an issue about states rights, its an issue of public health and safety for communities,” Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana said in a statement. “We’re hopeful that the Trump Administration will pursue a smart approach to enforcement that prioritises public health and safety over political ideology.”
NOW WATCH: Here’s how Attorney General Sessions could shut down the legal marijuana industry overnight
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