Although she personally opposes legalizing marijuana, new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch thinks her predecessor’s policy of allowing states to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference is “effective, consistent and rational.”
Lynch, who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, defended the hands-off policy the Justice Department enacted under Eric Holder in response to written questions from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA).
“The Department’s August 2013 memorandum simply provides guidance, applicable to federal prosecutors in every state, regarding the use of the Department’s limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant public health and public safety threats in an effective, consistent and rational way,” Lynch wrote in February.
The memo Lynch referred to outlines eight enforcement priorities which, if abided by, will generally protect states and people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws from federal interference.
During her confirmation hearing in January, Lynch stated her personal opposition to legalization. When asked about President Obama’s statement that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, for example, she said, “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’m able to share.
“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,” she said.
While many reformers would prefer an attorney general who has more favorable views of marijuana and legalization, what matters most is whether the nation’s top cop will spend federal resources working to undermine the will of voters who have enacted reform in their own states. Lynch’s remarks indicate that she will not.