Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he’s rescinding a marijuana policy from President Barack Obama’s administration that gave states a free hand to decriminalize weed, CNNreported. This signals a return to enforcement of strict federal laws that disproportionately targeted people of color.
“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.
The so-called “Cole memo” from the Obama-era gave states a passive OK to craft their own marijuana laws with little or no opposition from the federal government. It represented a shift from strict oversight as long as state laws didn’t threaten federal priorities, such as combating the distribution of drugs to minors. It’s unclear whether Sessions plans to issue new directives or revert back to policies prior to the Obama administration. Either way, this news raises concern.
Drug possession, particularly weed, represents the leading cause of arrests, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Possession, even of small amounts of the popular drug, is often a pretext to justify incarceration and deportation of Blacks and Latinos. “It’s now time for Congress to put the brakes on Sessions’ destructive agenda by limiting the Justice Department’s ability to undermine states’ decision making,” Sánchez-Moreno stated. This decision comes on the heels of recreational marijuana becoming legal in California. Most Americans support the legalization of pot, which has happened in eight states.