Long time prohibitionist and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sent out a new memo that is creating waves within the marijuana community. He has asked federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty against those “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs.” Sessions memo appears to be an effort to support President Trump’s recent promise to execute narcotics traffickers but fails to distinguish the difference between traffickers of narcotics and legal marijuana businesses. In the past, Sessions has been very outspoken about his disdain for marijuana. He has gone so far as to even threaten the rights of states to make their own laws regarding the plant and this includes medical as well as recreational marijuana. For this reason, a memo such as this coming from Sessions has left the marijuana industry with a bad taste in its mouth.
Already a Law in Place
While it would seem that this would be illegal to do to a marijuana business, there is actually a law to support this kind of prosecution. It would seem that, according to federal law, anyone found cultivating more than 60,000 marijuana plants, possessing over 60,000 kilograms of marijuana or earning over $20 million in marijuana related sales per year can actually receive the death penalty. While Sessions’ memo focuses mostly on opioid traffickers, the fact that this kind of prosecution is possible has been a very disturbing revelation for many.
“Still Very Theoretical”
According to The Cannabist, federal prosecutors are unlikely to target marijuana business owners. “I think it’s still very theoretical,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who specializes in marijuana law and in the death penalty. “I don’t think anyone thinks the federal government is going to seek the death penalty against a state-licensed business. But what it highlights is this enormous disconnect with federal and state law.”
Sessions War Against Cannabis
There have been regulations in place for several years, preventing federal funding from being spent on prosecuting marijuana related activities that are legal within that state. Sessions has been working to overturn these regulations since his appointment as Attorney General. Polls indicate that 60 percent of the nation believes the plant should be legalized for recreational use while 83 percent believe it should be legalized for medical purposes. 29 states have now legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes with many more states in the process of following suit. 20 percent of the country has chosen to legalize the plant for recreational use as well. Not only has the plant been found to be safer and healthier than alcohol and cigarettes but it has also been found to have powerful medicinal properties.
Nonetheless, it is still illegal on a federal level as a Schedule I drug. This classification refers to the highest risk drugs that have no medicinal benefits and are unsafe to test on humans such as heroin and LSD. The DEA have agreed to allow official medical testing to be conducted that could change this classification but the Department of Justice, run by Sessions, has blocked all progress towards this goal. At this time, marijuana remains an illegal substance and while federal prosecutors are unlikely to prosecute marijuana businesses, the fact that federal and state law could be at such odds is still unsettling to many within the industry.