Senator Presses Sessions To Release Marijuana Recommendations

By Tom Angell | August 01, 2017

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions received recommendations on possible changes to federal marijuana enforcement policy and other criminal justice issues from a Justice Department task force last week, but no one knows what they said.

Sessions, in a press release, said he has “been acting on the Task Force’s recommendations to set the policy of the Department. I will continue to review all of the Task Force’s recommendations, and look forward to taking additional steps towards ensuring safer communities for all Americans.”

The statement did not mention cannabis policy, an area that Sessions specifically directed the task force to examine. Nor did the attorney general say when or even whether he might reveal what the recommendations submitted to him were.

Now, a Democratic U.S. senator is pressing Sessions to release the task force’s findings to the public.

“It is concerning to see this administration failing, once again, to be transparent and straightforward with the American people about the motivations behind its policy shifts,” U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote in a letter to Sessions on Tuesday. “I write to you today to ask that the recommendations of the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety immediately be made public.”

The task force was created by an executive order from President Trump earlier this year, and has been examining a broad array of criminal justice issues besides just marijuana.

But while Sessions has already taken action on other issues that the task force has been looking at, such as civil asset forfeiture and immigration enforcement, the Trump administration has not yet made a clear policy declaration about whether it will uphold the president’s campaign pledge to respect state marijuana laws.

Last Thursday’s deadline for recommendations to Sessions came just a week after a team of federal agency representatives held secret meetings about marijuana policy with state and local official in Colorado.

“Especially given your past statements opposing state-legalized marijuana, the public deserves to know whether recommendations from the marijuana subcommittee are being used behind the scenes at DOJ to justify federal actions that undermine states’ rights to set their own marijuana laws,” Wyden wrote to Sessions. “The citizens of Oregon voted to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, and it is not the role of the Attorney General to unilaterally undermine the will of Oregon voters on the basis of uncorroborated claims and furtive recommendations made by a task force shielded from public input and scrutiny.”

Sessions, a longtime vocal opponent of legalization, recently asked Congress not to renew existing protections for state medical cannabis laws. But last week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to extend the provision for another year anyway. The rider is now part of the Fiscal Year 2018 funding bill for the Justice Department.

MassRoots has filed a Freedom of Information Act request on the Justice Department task force’s marijuana recommendations. The government has not yet responded.

Tom Angell

Tom Angell is a senior political correspondent for MassRoots. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority and is editor of the daily Marijuana Moment newsletter.

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