Attorney General Jeff Sessions is signaling he will step up enforcement of federal marijuana laws, claiming it is causing violence in communities where recreational weed is legal.
Speaking out on the issue for the first time Monday in his new role, Sessions echoed statements made Thursday by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that recreational marijuana is dangerous. Spicer made a sharp distinction between medical and recreational pot, saying federal enforcement will likely increase on the latter while tying marijuana use with the opioid epidemic, reports Politico.
“We’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said Monday, according to Politico. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
Despite more states moving towards various forms of legalization, Sessions said growing, using or selling the substance remains illegal in the eyes of the Department of Justice. Sessions will review and potentially roll back aspects of the Cole memo, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct the Department of Justice to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws. (RELATED: Critics Blast White House For Tying Opioid Epidemic To Legal Weed)
“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said, according to Politico. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.”
If Sessions and the Trump administration move to interfere with state pot laws, it could cost the marijuana industry hundreds of thousands of jobs. The marijuana industry is currently on pace to dwarf U.S. manufacturing in job creation over the next several years.
A report released in February by New Frontier Data projects that an unimpeded marijuana market will create more than 250,000 jobs by 2020. The booming projections for growth stand in stark contrast to manufacturing jobs, which are expected to crater by more than 800,000 by 2024.
Aside from jeopardizing new jobs, a crackdown on lawful weed laws will cause legal confusion in states actively working to implement legalization laws approved by voters. In states where legal weed markets are already thriving, like Colorado, tougher federal enforcement could risk 20,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic activity.
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