Alaska’s Congressional delegation didn’t agree with voters’ decision to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014, but they definitely don’t agree with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to take it away.
Rep. Don Young told the Associated Press today that the surprise decision to impose tougher enforcement of federal marijuana laws is “direct violation of states’ rights.” Sen. Dan Sullivan said the actions are in direct contradiction to promises made by President Donald Trump.
By rescinding the Obama-era “Cole Memo,” Sessions clears a path for Department of Justice prosecutors to go after recreational marijuana businesses and users in states that have legalized possession, use and sale. Its precise impact for states that have legalized marijuana is unclear, and there’s some speculation that the move is more of a deterrent than an immediate crackdown.
Young, who recently won the title of ‘dean of the House’ as the longest-serving member of Congress, told the AP that if Sessions’ action stands and Congress doesn’t allows the Department of Justice to crack down on states that have legalized marijuana “it will be one of the biggest derelictions of duty I will have witnessed.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan also hinted at the need for a legislative solution for the disparities between federal and state marijuana laws, citing the need to respect states’ rights.
“Today’s action by the Department of Justice — which contradicts previous statements by the President that this is an issue best left to the states, and adds new confusion and uncertainty for numerous states and communities — could be the impetus necessary for Congress to find a permanent legislative solution for states that have chosen to regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana,” he said in a prepared statement. “As we move forward, I will be examining new and existing legislative proposals and working to ensure the rights of Alaskans and the State of Alaska are protected.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who spent much of 2017 pressuring the administration for clarity on its plans for marijuana enforcement, called the decision “disruptive” and “regrettable.” As a key moderate in the Republican 51-member majority, Murkowski could take the spotlight in any legislative rebuttal to Sessions’ decision.