Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn’t want states to legalize weed, but states don’t seem to care.
Just days after Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that largely protected people in states with legal weed from federal prosecution, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives granted preliminary approval on Tuesday to a bill that would legalize marijuana. Five days earlier, Vermont’s House passed a similar bill that’s widely expected to go into law in the coming days.
“Despite the best attempts by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to intimidate state governments, the recent votes in Vermont and New Hampshire demonstrate that legislators are ignoring this bluster and are standing up for the will of the people,” Erik Altieri, of marijuana advocacy group NORML, said in a statement.
New Hampshire’s bill, which passed initial procedural hurdles 207 to 139 and now heads to the Ways and Means Committee, would legalize adult possession of up to a three-quarters of an ounce of pot and allow limited home cultivation. It wouldn’t, however, authorize retail sales of marijuana.
If the bill passes, it still needs Senate approval before heading to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk. Prior to the vote on Tuesday, the state already had medical marijuana, and Sununu signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana possession in 2017.
In December, Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he would sign the bill the Senate is expected to pass on Tuesday or Wednesday. And he hasn’t backed off his since promise since Sessions declared open season on legal weed.
“Apparently, he’s [Sessions] more troubled by an 80-year-old using medical marijuana to treat a terminal health condition than he is by coordinating election strategy with Russians,” Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe told the Burlington Free Press.
When the Justice Department rescinded the Obama administration’s 2013 policy last Thursday, Sessions gave U.S. Attorneys discretion to prosecute cases in places with legal weed, which now includes nine states that allow it recreationally and 29 that allow it medically. Most recently, California began recreational pot sales, as of Jan. 1.
After Sessions' announcement, attorneys general in several states with legal pot assured residents they will stick to the Obama-era policy and focus on going after high-level offenders instead of individuals.
Cover image: Rich Paul takes a puff of a marijuana joint in front of the Statehouse in Concord, N.H., April 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)