- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A national pro-marijuana group is taking a nugget of hope out of Sen. Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings, saying they are pleased the Alabama Republican has declined the chance to adopt a prohibitionist approach to the enforcement of federal pot laws.

Robert Capecchi, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said Mr. Sessions, in his opening day of testimony, “chose not to commit to vigorously enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.”

“He also recognized that enforcing federal marijuana laws would be dependent upon the availability of resources, the scarcity of which poses a problem,” Mr. Capecchi said. “He was given the opportunity to take an extreme prohibitionist approach and he passed on it.”

Others, though, were less optimistic, saying it is still unclear how Mr. Sessions would deal with the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws.

“If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states,” said Erik Altieri, executive direction of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“If Sessions wants to be an Attorney General for ALL Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention,” he said.

Federal law classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug on par with heroin and LSD. A number of states, though, have legalized pot for medical use, and more and more have approved it for recreational use, putting them at odds with federal law.

The Obama administration has responded by issuing several memos on its drug enforcement priorities, ordering agents to generally ignore states that legalize marijuana.

President-elect Donald Trump could move in a different direction by insisting federal laws that outlaw the drug are enforced.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont pressed Mr. Sessions on the issue Tuesday, asking him how he, if he becomes attorney general, would balance his belief in states rights with the decision of states to violate the federal law by legalizing marijuana.

“I won’t commit to not enforcing federal law,” Mr. Sessions said. “But absolutely it is a problem of resources for the federal government.”

Mr. Session said there are some “truly valuable” policies that have been laid out by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her predecessor Eric Holder, and said he would have to make “good judgment” on how to handle related cases.

The second day of Mr. Session’s confirmation hearings kicked off Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

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