Forbes: Attorney General Barr Favors A More Lenient Approach To Cannabis Prohibition

Attorney General William Barr testified during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on April 10, that he favors a more lenient, albeit federalist, approach to marijuana laws.

He prefers for cannabis to be legalized nationwide rather than let states continue to fly in the face of federal prohibition.

During the Justice Department's fiscal year 2020 budget request meeting, Barr was asked to clarify the federal government’s role in enforcing drug laws in states that have legalized medical and adult use cannabis.

A.G. Barr's détente reply to a question volleyed by Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), said removing the federal government from the situation and allowing the states to set their own cannabis policy would be an improvement over the present scenario, which he refers to as an “intolerable” conflict between federal and state laws.

Senator Murkowski is a sponsor of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, along with 37 other bi-partisan members of the House and Senate who signed on as co-sponsors since the Bill was reintroduced last week, by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) describes the STATES Act as "a bipartisan measure which limits the Federal government's ability to interfere with state-sanctioned marijuana businesses and policies."

According to NORML, "This Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to reduce the number of instances in which federal law enforcement agencies could carry out legal actions against state-licensed cannabis businesses or other related enterprises."

The STATES Act offers to provide immunity from federal action toward businesses and individuals who participate in the licensed cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, or consumption of cannabis in states where it is legal.

Passage of the STATES Act would revise the Controlled Subtances Act regulations to provide exemptions for “any person acting in compliance with State law relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration or delivery of marijuana."

The STATES Act will essentially reinstate the protections A.G. Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions threatened when he rescinded the “Cole Memo" --- a nascent Justice Department advisory penned by then-Deputy A.G. James M. Cole during the Obama Administration in 2013.

“I am accepting the Cole Memorandum for now, but I have generally left it up to the U.S. Attorneys in each state to determine what the best approach is in that state,” A.G. Barr further testified  during the hearing. "I haven’t heard any complaints from the states that have legalized marijuana."

Republican and native New Yorker Barr has a storied career in the Justice Department. Before assuming his current role as Attorney General in February, he held the position twice  previously.

Barr claims he still opposes federal legalization. However, his approach to the issue is a direct contradiction to that of his predecessor Jeff Sessions, who once portentiously quipped that "good people don't smoke marijuana."

Sessions, perhaps predicting that his term of employment in the revolving door of the Trump Administration would be cut short, was conceivably concerned about alienating his constituents back home in Alabama, had he not opposed cannabis legalization.

As state-by-state cannabis legalization continues to galvanize support, a group of 34 states can collectively sue the federal government to repeal prohibition under a legal statute known as Article V.

Article V states, “The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress."

Whether by the legalized states' class action lawsuit, executive order, or eventual regime change, it may merely be a matter of time before federal legalization comes to fruition.

By:  Sara Brittany Somerset
Source: Forbes