Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hinted Tuesday there are changes on the horizon as to how the Justice Department handles marijuana enforcement in states that have legalized use of the drug in some form.
“We follow the law and the science. From a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana it is an unlawful drug,” Mr. Rosenstein said Tuesday during an appearance before a Senate appropriations committee.
But he said there may be future changes to the Obama-era guidance issued by the Justice Department — known as the Cole memo — that limited federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states that had opted to legalize medical or recreational use.
“Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum. At the moment that memo is still in effort,” Mr. Rosenstein said of the policy. “Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we are still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana.”
Describing the hurdles legal marijuana businesses face, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, had asked the deputy attorney general to describe where DOJ is headed with regard to marijuana.
Alaska is one of eight states where residents voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana.
Uncertainly has lingered over what could happen to recreational or medical marijuana markets since Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the helm at the DOJ.
News broke Monday night that Mr. Sessions is asking congressional leaders not renew a federal law that afforded some protections to state medical marijuana laws. In a letter first obtained by Tom Angell of MassRoots, Mr. Sessions wrote to leaders last month asking that they not renew a law that restricts the DOJ from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Mr. Sessions wrote in a letter sent to the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”