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Sessions Marijuana Move Breaks Trump Campaign Promise

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to rescind Obama-era guidance that generally allows states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference on Thursday, according to reports.

The move represents a broken campaign promise by President Trump.

Trump, who says he has never used marijuana or other drugs but personally knows people who benefit from medical cannabis, repeatedly pledged during the course of the presidential election that he would respect state legalization laws.

“I wouldn’t interfere because I think that really is a local issue. When you look at what’s happened in Colorado as an example, it’s a local thing,” he told CBS Boston. “I wouldn’t interfere with it. I think that’s something that really is very much up to the local area.”

At a campaign rally he said, “And then I really believe you should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation… In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”

While Trump did say he personally opposes legalization, he was consistent in saying that states should be able to enact their own laws.

“I think it’s up to the states. I’m a states person,” he told 9News Denver. “I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “If they vote for it, they vote for it.”

Back in 1990, Trump suggested legalizing all drugs. “We’re losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war,” he said. “You have to take the profit away from these drug czars… What I’d like to do maybe by bringing it up is cause enough controversy that you get into a dialogue on the issue of drugs so people will start to realize that this is the only answer; there is no other answer.”

Under the so-called “Cole Memo,” the federal government set out certain criteria that, if followed, would allow states to implement their own laws mostly without intervention, provided those states worked to ensure marijuana would not flow to places it remained outlawed and was kept out of the hands of children and criminal gangs.

Sessions has sent a series of conflicting signals about the Trump administration’s marijuana enforcement policies since being confirmed last February. But now, as was first reported Thursday by the Associated Press, he is moving to rescind the Obama guidance.

The broken campaign pledge represented by Sessions’s move comes at a time when legalizing marijuana is more popular than the president, or most other politicians for that matter.

In October, a Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, including majorities across party lines.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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