Atty Gen’l designate: Up to Congress to change marijuana laws

Jan. 11, 2017 -- Saying he would enforce federal marijuana laws, Attorney General-designate (and U.S. Senator) Jeff Sessions said during his confirmation hearing Tuesday it’s up to Congress to change those laws if use and possession of the substance is going to proceed in states.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Alabama Republican said Congress made possession of marijuana “in every state” and the distribution of it illegal acts. “So, if that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule,” he said. "It's not so much the attorney general's job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively."

As of last November’s election, more than half of the states (28, and the District of Columbia) have now legalized recreational or medicinal – or both – uses of marijuana for their jurisdictions. However: The substance remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug (the same as heroin), a rating that was reiterated by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency in the summer, which hampers the ability of businesses serving the legal marijuana trade to receive services from financial institutions (including credit unions), which are reluctant to provide services out of fear of violating federal drug laws.

NASCUS has been closely following the discussion about financial institutions serving legal marijuana businesses in their states, supports the rights of states to make and enforce their own laws and to foster public safety, and backs federal legislation which would clarify the permissibility of financial institutions to provide financial services to state-authorized marijuana businesses.