Observers on Capitol Hill believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be about to lay down the law on marijuana users, reversing popular policies put in place by the Obama Administration. Moreover, the reason for the change is almost as surprising as the potential policy change.
AG Sessions heads the president’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, a group meant to fight violent crime. According to the Hill, Sessions has explicitly instructed members of the task force to review “the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana” to determine whether they’re in line with the DOJ’s overall strategy against violent crime.
“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 head of the respected 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 or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”
Is it true that marijuana increases violent crime? Not according to a top law enforcement leader, the co-chair of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, who is also a former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department.
“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,” he said. “Crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and opioids is where we’re seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control.”
In May, Sessions dramatically increased the potential sentences federal prosecutors are to seek in drug cases. He reversed another Obama-era policy limiting the use of harsh, mandatory-minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent marijuana offenders. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the harshest appropriate sentence in all cases.
Earlier this month, he also reversed an Obama-era limitation on civil asset forfeiture. That process allows law enforcement to seize money and property allegedly tied to criminal activity and keep it if the owner is unable to prove it has no connection to crime.
The initial recommendations of the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety were expected this week.