By Jackson Richman
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he will rescind an Obama-era policy of not enforcing federal marijuana laws in states where the substance is legalized. Although Sessions rightfully decided to enforce federal law, it is time for Congress to take concrete action and pass legislation to let marijuana legalization be decided by the individual states.
As CNN reported:
The move essentially shifts federal policy from the hands-off approach adopted under the previous administration to unleashing federal prosecutors across the country to decide individually how to prioritize resources to crack down on pot possession, distribution and cultivation of the drug in states where it is legal.
While many states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana use, the drug is still illegal under federal law, creating a conflict between federal and state law. Thursday’s announcement is a major decision for an attorney general who has regularly decried marijuana use as dangerous.
“Jeff Sessions’ obsession with marijuana prohibition defies logic, threatens successful state-level reforms, and flies in the face of widespread public support for legalization,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “It’s now time for Congress to put the brakes on Sessions’ destructive agenda by limiting the Justice Department’s ability to undermine states’ decisionmaking.”
Legislation has been introduced that would legalize marijuana nationwide. But in accordance with the principle of State’s Rights, which the Sessions mandate violates, nationwide legalization should not be the solution to calm the nerves of the legalized states which could be targeted as a result of Thursday’s announcement.
“The ball is in Congress’ court,” the R Street Institute’s Kevin Kosar told The National Discourse. “For years it has allowed presidents to make drug policy on the fly, and the result is massive uncertainty—for law enforcement, for entrepreneurs, and for those who believe cannabis use has benefits. Congress needs to decide: is pot a federal issue or one best left to the states?”
Therefore, Congress should not wait until April 20 to amend the law and eliminate federal prohibitions related to cannabis.
“It is time for congressional representatives in these districts to step up and defend the rights of their constituents – many of whom rely on these policies for their health and welfare, and who have repeatedly demanded federal legislators to once and for all amend federal law in a manner that comports with cannabis’ rapidly changing legal and cultural status,” Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, wrote in The Hill.
He added, “America’s federalist system does not mandate states to be beholden to the intellectually and morally bankrupt policy that is marijuana prohibition.”
By amending the law, Congress would be respecting the will of the states, enabling possible economic growth from a rapidly growing industry, and enacting some criminal justice reform, which must be addressed as not to have people behind bars for a crime that is no longer as such.