By Kyle Jaeger
At his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, lawyer common nominee William Barr mentioned he would not go just after marijuana providers that have operated in compliance with earlier Justice Division guidance that was rescinded final year by his predecessor, Jeff Sessions.
He also encouraged Congress to address the conflict among federal and state cannabis policies.
“My strategy to this would be not to upset settled expectations and the reliant interests that have arisen as a outcome of the Cole memorandum,” Barr mentioned, referring to a memo on federal marijuana enforcement priorities that Sessions revoked in early 2018. “However, I feel the present circumstance is untenable and definitely has to be addressed. It is virtually like a backdoor nullification of federal law.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked Barr what he would do to address the concern and irrespective of whether he felt it was “appropriate to use federal sources to target marijuana corporations that are in compliance with state law.”
“I’m not going to go just after providers that have relied on Cole memorandum,” Barr replied. “However, we either should really have a federal law that prohibits marijuana everywhere, which I would assistance myself simply because I feel it is a error to back off marijuana. Nevertheless, if we want a federal approach—if we want states to have their personal laws—then let’s get there and get there in the ideal way.
Booker, who has sponsored a bill to get rid of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and penalize states exactly where marijuana enforcement is disproportionate, mentioned he was glad to hear Barr’s comment on not taking action against state-legal marijuana corporations.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also pressed Barr about his stance on federal marijuana enforcement. She asked irrespective of whether the nominee intended to use the restricted federal funds at his disposal to go just after cannabis corporations in compliance with state law.
“No, I believed I answered that by saying that to the extent that folks are complying with the state laws—distribution and production and so forth—we’re not going to go just after that,” Barr mentioned. That mentioned, “I feel it is incumbent on the Congress to make a choice as to irrespective of whether we’re going to have a federal program or irrespective of whether it is going to be vital federal law. This is breeding disrespect for the federal law.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who has sponsored broad marijuana reform legislation that final year earned an endorsement from President Trump, mentioned he is “encouraged” by Barr’s statements.
Michael Collins, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment that “Barr’s comments on not going just after state-legal marijuana are a welcome improvement, and a break with his predecessor.”
“He should really now commit his division to operating with Congress on a option to the state vs. federal conflict, so that we can reform our outdated marijuana laws in a way that is constant with racial justice values,” Collins mentioned.
Other advocates saw the comments as constructive, although a single noted that Barr appears to personally opposed marijuana law reform even when he indicated he wouldn’t interfere with the implementation of state laws.
“While it is encouraging that William Barr committed to not enforce federal prohibition, his insistence that he believes in the policy of prohibition is a clear signal that the Division of Justice will continue to be led by an person who refuses to acknowledge the productive implementation of reforms in states all through the nation,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment.
Strekal mentioned Barr’s pledge not to interfere in state-legal marijuana activities provides Congress “a clear mandate to take action and finish the underlying policy of federal criminalization.”
Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that Barr’s newly stated stance properly “green lights the marijuana industry” in spite of issues reform advocates expressed about the Trump administration just after the 2016 presidential election. He mentioned the exchange represented a “big win for marijuana policy reformers.”
“Senator Booker delivered for advocates and AG nominee Barr delivered for the sector.”
Also at the hearing, Booker questioned the nominee’s broader views on mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice program. Barr defended his earlier contact for enhanced incarceration in the 1990s, saying it was created in the context of historically higher crime prices and was directed at chronic, violent offenders.
But he also agreed to commission a Justice Division study about racial disparities in the criminal justice program and recognized that harsh penalties for non-violent drug crimes have particularly “harmed the black community—the incarceration price on the black neighborhood.”
Harris also challenged Barr to “take a appear at the additional current viewpoint on the drug crisis that is afflicting our nation.”
She mentioned there’s “now an understanding that the war on drugs was an abject failure, that America frankly has a crisis of addiction and that placing the restricted sources of our federal government into up locking folks who endure from a public wellness crisis is likely not the smartest use of taxpayer dollars.”
1 of the final senators to query Barr throughout the initially round, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), also brought up cannabis. He asked irrespective of whether it was fair to characterize the nominee’s statements as primarily imploring Congress to settle the concern, regardless of exactly where he personally stands on marijuana policy.
“That’s commonly fair, yes,” Barr mentioned.