Thanks to Congress’ fumbling over the bill to fund federal government operations, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threatened crackdown on marijuana may get a major boost, Politico reports. A provision of the current spending law known as Rohrabacher-Farr that protects state medical marijuana programs from federal interference, is close to expiring. If the government shuts down at the expiration of the current resolution on December 22, or if negotiations fail to insert it in a new spending bill—entirely possible given House Republicans’ hostility to marijuana—Sessions would be free to unleash federal drug agents on a drug that under federal law is considered the equal of heroin and LSD.
The politics on this issue has shifted so dramatically that reform advocates are actually itching for the fight. “Part of me just thinks: Let ‘em try. There will such a ferocious backlash,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Blumenauer replaced Sam Farr as the amendment’s Democratic co-sponsor after Farr’s retirement. Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project agreed, saying, “There’s no way that Sessions can start rolling back medical marijuana policies or attacking patients and providers without looking like the bad guy.” With the legislative barrier gone, there would be plenty of ways for Sessions to make life difficult for marijuana businesses. DOJ could quietly send letters to landlords who rented to legal marijuana businesses to threaten them with asset forfeiture. Soon after he took office, Sessions undid the protections of the 2013 memo granting U.S. Attorneys that granted them a great degree of prosecutorial discretion on enforcing federal laws against marijuana. “I … am dubious about marijuana,” Sessions told the National Association of Attorneys General in February. “States can pass whatever laws they choose, but I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.”