By John Hudak
What to make of Jeff Sessions as the nation's next Attorney General? Well, first, if you oppose his nomination: Take a deep breath. He is going to be confirmed; he is going to be Attorney General. It's fantasy to think Sessions' nomination will be derailed.
"I won't commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy. But absolutely it's a problem of resources for the federal government. The Department of Justice under Lynch and Holder set forth some policies that they thought were appropriate to define what cases should be prosecuted in states that have legalized at least in some fashion some parts of marijuana. I think some of them are truly valuable in evaluating cases but fundamentally, the criticism I think that was legitimate is that they may not have been followed. Using good judgment about how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine."
So, what does this mean? It's a tap dance for sure. But it suggests that as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions knows that accounting is as important as enforcement. The Justice Department has an annual budget of over $27 billion -- a ton of money, for sure. But it gets spent fast.
However, Sessions will be reminded constantly that every dollar he uses to shut down a legal recreational dispensary in Denver or raid a medical marijuana grower in San Francisco or arrest a cancer patient in Boston, is one less dollar he can spend on cracking down on illegal international marijuana supply networks; distributors of fentanyl; peddlers of heroin or other black market, unregulated sources of the world's most dangerous drugs.
For an Alabama Senator, it is easy to group a state-legal, regulated marijuana operator, doling out bud in Seattle with a black market smuggler of fentanyl, nervously overseeing a shipping container crossing the Pacific. However, as Attorney General, it's not that easy.
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But, as Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell has pointed out, on marijuana, Sessions sounded a lot like Loretta Lynch did in her confirmation hearing. And if Attorney General Sessions behaves more like Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder than ... well ... Senator Sessions, the marijuana industry, its consumers and patients will breathe a sigh of relief.
John Hudak is deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management and a senior fellow in Governance Studies. Hudak is also the author of Marijuana: A Short History, which offers a unique, up-to-date profile of how cannabis emerged from the shadows of counterculture and illegality to become a serious, even mainstream, public policy issue and source of legal revenue for both businesses and governments.