Criminal justice reform advocates fear Attorney General Jeff Sessions will crack down on marijuana growers, sellers, and users amid the release of task force recommendations due this week, according to The Hill.
"The task force revolves around reducing violent crime, and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month -- and explicitly the last couple of weeks -- talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime," Inimai Chettiar, Brennan Center's Justice Program director, told The Hill.
"We're worried there's going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that's true or recommending action be taken based on that being true."
AG Sessions had sent a memo in April for the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety to issue a review by July 27.
"Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department's overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with administration goals and priorities," Sessions' memo read, according to the report.
Sessions has been a hardliner against government softening of drug policies, believing "drug abuse and violent crime surged" since.
"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, former New Orleans Police Department superintendent, told The Hill.
"That's not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America. Crack and powered cocaine, heroin, and opioids is where we're seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control."
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational use, while 21 states permit medical uses, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
"If you try to start prosecuting marijuana . . . you create more violence and more danger as well as greater government cost," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told The Hill. "These policies that he's doing ultimately go to the core of the safety of our communities."
It is not just Democrats at odds with Sessions' potential action. President Donald Trump promised to not touch state's rights on marijuana while on the campaign trail, and the policy conflict might fuel more issues between the president and his attorney general, which ignited this week.
Even some conservatives oppose federal action on marijuana in lieu of state's rights.
"I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told The Hill.
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