“From a practitioner’s point of view, marijuana is not a drug that doesn’t have some danger to it, but it’s not the drug that’s driving violent crime in America,” says the co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. “That’s not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America.”
Yet according to observers at The Hill, Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be planning to crack down on marijuana use in an effort to prevent violent crime. Sessions heads the president’s Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, the goal of which is to cut the violent crime rate.
Sessions has directed officials on the task force to review “existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana” to ensure they’re consistent with Trump Administration policies on reducing violent crimes.
“Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month, and explicitly the last couple of weeks, talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” says the director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.
“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true,” he added,” or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”
Proponents of states’ rights, medical marijuana alarmed at development
Eight states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana for adults’ personal use, and 21 others have legalized medical marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Under President Obama, Congress passed an amendment to the Justice Department’s budget meant to prevent the agency from interfering with states’ attempts to legalize and regulate medical marijuana.
Last month, a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a bill known as the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would prevent the federal government from interfering with state legalization of medical marijuana. The CARERS Act has not been passed into law.
Libertarian Senator Rand Paul also opposes any Justice Department policy that could interfere with state policies on marijuana. “I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy,” he said.
Nevertheless, Sessions appears to be seeking a way out of the budget amendment restricting justice department interference with medical marijuana policy. In May, he wrote a letter warning that Congress is unwise to limit the DOJ’s prosecutorial discretion “in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
Yet according to the Justice Department’s own Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of violent crime across the U.S. has fallen by over 75 percent since 1993.