New Attorney General Is Anti-Marijuana. How Much Should We Care?

This past week, we heard a lot more from Loretta Lynch on marijuana legalization. Though Ms. Lynch is the U.S. Attorney General appointee, replacing Eric Holder, her views on legalization, and on marijuana in general, are less important than you might thing. Which is a good thing, because she clearly is not a fan.

When asked by Senator Jeff Sessions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, “Do you support the legalization of marijuana?” Lynch replied as follows:

Senator, I do not…. But I can tell you that not only do I not support legalization of marijuana, it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support legalization, nor would it be the position if I were confirmed as attorney general.

When asked by Senator Lindsey Graham if Lynch considers the DOJ’s current marijuana guidance “good policy,” Lynch appeared to dodge the question. She said that “the DOJ’s guidance still allows federal prosecutors to go after marijuana cases that involve at-risk children, driving under the influence of the drug or marijuana crossing state lines — especially when it’s going from a state where marijuana is legal into a state where it isn’t.” She also said that the DOJ is looking at the availability of edible products “and the risk of those products falling into the hands of children and causing great harm there.” On the plus side, Ms. Lynch gave no indication that she would interfere with states legalizing marijuana or that there would be any significant changes to current DOJ enforcement policies should she be confirmed.

We are all used to this anti-legalization rhetoric coming from the very disjointed and inconsistent DOJ, and it is pretty clear that even if an Attorney General believed in legalizing marijuana, they could never say so publicly. Even ignoring the politics, the Attorney General is sworn to uphold and enforce the laws of the United States and those laws currently make pretty much all marijuana activity illegal, whether state-sanctioned or not.

Ms. Lynch’s take on marijuana legalization is really more of the “same old thing, different day” than anything else. The DOJ can at any time change its mind about its current fairly lax enforcement policies. That is a no brainer and that is a risk every marijuana business takes every single day.

What we do find troubling though is what AG Lynch thinks of marijuana generally. At the same Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Ms. Lynch told senators that she thinks President Obama was wrong when he told New Yorker that he believed cannabis was less dangerous than alcohol:

I certainly don’t hold that view and don’t agree with that view of marijuana as a substance. I certainly think that the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion — neither of which I am able to share.

It is both unexpected and unscientific for AG Lynch to claim marijuana is no safer than alcohol and to attribute that contention to the fact that she does not have personal experience with marijuana. I do not have personal experience with heroin, yet I know it is dangerous because I am aware of the science on it and I have read what it has done to people.

I am hoping that Ms. Lynch’s almost deliberate position of ignorance on marijuana was just politician-speak done to secure confirmation without ruffling Congressional feathers. But if she continues to exhibit a willingness to ignore facts and science surrounding marijuana and its safety and efficacy, our concern about her will only increase. In the meantime, we are doing our best to try to keep an open mind.

What are your thoughts?