Lawmakers knew exactly who Jeff Sessions was when they confirmed him to be the nation’s attorney general, so to say that they are now “heading for a confrontation” with Sessions over marijuana policy, as this Bloomberg piece suggests, seems an overstatement.
It’s doubtful that this Congress will be “confronting” anybody, but the House and Senate are likely going to keep pushing for moderation in the nation’s pointlessly regressive marijuana laws no matter what Sessions thinks, and if those efforts happen to tie Jeff Sessions’ hands, in his brief remaining time between now and when Trump decides to send him to a farm upstate to run and play with all the other ex-Trump officials, well, nobody will be crying about that.
Measures have been attached to must-pass bills in the Senate that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to counsel patients on the use of medical marijuana, and to continue blocking the
Department from pursuing cases against people who use medical marijuana in states that have legalized it.
Some lawmakers are pushing to go even further. Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, this week unveiled legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. In the House, Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida proposed legislation that would change the federal classification of marijuana to allow research and a range of medical uses.
The Booker and Gaetz bills face an uphill battle in this ultra-conservative legislative climate, but smaller efforts to block the Justice Department from single-handedly declaring a new war against marijuana in the states that have already legalized it would limit the damage Sessions or like-minded zealots could do.
As of right now, though, lawmakers appear to be thinking they’ll patch laws to prevent the worst abuses but otherwise just wait Sessions out. Not just on marijuana policy, but on Sessions’ threats to civil rights, voting rights, his threats against sanctuary cities, and the rest. Sessions needs to be “confronted” on all these things, but Democrats don’t have the power and Republicans don’t have the stomach.
Ironically, it may be Sessions’ reduced standing with Trump that frees Republican lawmakers to more pointedly reject Sessions’ policies. They’re unwilling to oppose Trump, but quarreling with Sessions no longer carries the same risks for the party’s more cowardly congresscritters that it did when he could claim to be creating policies on Trump’s behalf.