DEMOCRATS CALL FOR A HEARING ON MARIJUANA POLICY CHANGE BY A.G. SESSIONS

Feb 7, 2018 Issues: Government Oversight/Executive Branch, Law Enforcement

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and ten of his Democratic colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) requesting a hearing on the recent changes to marijuana enforcement guidance issued by the Justice Department during the Obama Administration.  Joining the Ranking Member in signing the letter are Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

The Members wrote, "We fear that the elimination of the Obama Administration’s marijuana enforcement guidance will promote an inefficient use of limited taxpayer resources and subvert the will of voters who have clearly indicated a preference for legalized marijuana in their states."

Included in the guidance rescinded by Attorney General Sessions was the memorandum issued in 2013 by then Deputy Attorney General James Cole setting forth considerations federal prosecutors should use when deciding when it would be appropriate to use the limited resources of the Department to prosecute marijuana cases. 

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

 


 

February 5, 2018

 

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte

Chairman

House Committee on the Judiciary

2138 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Chairman Goodlatte:      

We are deeply concerned by the recent action by Attorney General Sessions rescinding Department of Justice (DOJ) marijuana enforcement guidance issued during the Obama Administration.  We write to request a hearing of the full Judiciary Committee regarding this decision.         

On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Sessions issued a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys eliminating marijuana enforcement priorities set forth under President Obama.  Previous memoranda issued during the Obama Administration, such as the memorandum issued in 2013 by then Deputy Attorney General James Cole (Cole Memo), made clear the considerations the federal government should use when deciding to prosecute violations of the Controlled Substances Act related to marijuana. Rather than targeting individuals in states that had legalized marijuana and consequently set up complex regulatory systems, the government focused on priorities that were significant to the federal government. These included preventing gangs and cartels from profiting from marijuana sales and ensuring that state-authorized marijuana was not used to hide other illegal activities.

We fear that the elimination of the Obama Administration’s marijuana enforcement guidance will promote an inefficient use of limited taxpayer resources and subvert the will of voters who have clearly indicated a preference for legalized marijuana in their states.  Further, the January 4 memorandum by Attorney General Sessions fails to provide any evidence that prosecuting marijuana in states where it has been legalized will make Americans safer.  DOJ should instead pursue enforcement strategies that are sensible, effective, and enhance public safety, and the Judiciary Committee should be included in these discussions.

The Judiciary Committee has a fundamental duty to conduct oversight on the Department of Justice.  It is critical that the members of our committee have an opportunity to ask questions about this recent rescission in a formal setting and evaluate potential legislation related to marijuana. Therefore, we respectfully request a hearing by the full Committee on these issues.  

 

 

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