Trump administration preparing for strict crackdown on marijuana

Some local law enforcement leaders argue there’s no need for it 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Monday 24 July 2017 23:06 BST
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Attorney General Jeff Sessions (AP)

Donald Trump’s administration appears to be getting ready to step up marijuana law enforcement.

Mr Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is anticipated to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the drug.

Mr Sessions sent a letter in May asking congressional leaders to get rid of an amendment to the Justice Department’s budget that prohibits the agency from using federal funds to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorise the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Mr Sessions wrote in the letter, first obtained by and verified by The Washington Post.

The District of Columbia and eight states have legalised the recreational use of marijuana, and another 21 states allow the use of medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, but marijuana use is still illegal under federal law.

Despite indications that the federal government is going to crack down on marijuana users, some local law enforcement leaders assert there is no need for it.

“From a practitioner’s point of view, marijuana is not a drug that doesn’t have some danger to it, but it’s not the drug that’s driving violent crime in America,” Ronal Serpas told The Hill. Mr Serpas is the former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department and co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.

“That’s not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America,” he added. “Crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and opioids is where we’re seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control.”

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