Attorney General Jeff Sessions was no friend to the marijuana legalization movement. In early 2018, Sessions rescinded guidance that had been in place since President Barack Obama’s administration to not interfere in states where marijuana was legalized, despite the fact the federal laws still have marijuana in the Schedule I drug category.
Once Sessions was removed from office, however, the potential for federal views to change was on the table. With William Barr as President Donald Trump’s nomination to replace Sessions, things could go in favour of a federal law change.
Barr answered questions from the Senate in writing after his nomination and noted he has no plans to go after parties that have complied with state law related to the Cole Memorandum. Barr is actually opposed to legalization, but his views lean towards change in federal law, rather than interference with the states through administrative counsel.
Contrary to the move by Sessions, further legal resources will not be tied up in a fight between federal law and state legislature. The direction Barr seems interested in leans more towards that supported by the Obama administration — an uneasy truce that will protect the states that have moved to implement legislation that is in direct opposition to that at the federal level.
Barr’s responses have been received favourably, as most marijuana legalization advocates feel he is wise to recognize that public perception has changed and the best approach is to recognize that change and adjust views accordingly.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal has noted that the Department of Justice and the Senate Judiciary Committee would be smart to work together on solutions now that it is recognized that resources are being wasted in addressing marijuana use and possession. The current economic struggle may be addressed beneficially if the move is made to address these issues with resource drain.
Barr has yet to be confirmed to the Attorney General seat, as the vote for his confirmation has been delayed due to opposition from Democrats. The vote has been pushed back a week, which is normal when the candidate is a controversial one. That additional time allows lawmakers to debate and determine the validity of the candidate’s appointment. It does not mean his confirmation won’t occur.