The cannabis community didn’t have much information on Merrick Garland’s positions on legal cannabis states when President Joe Biden nominated the one-time Supreme Court nominee to be the next Attorney General of the United States. Thanks to questioning from New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who represents the most recent state to end cannabis prohibition, we know that a Garland-led Justice Department will leave regulated businesses alone, so long as they are complying with their state’s laws. (On a side note, I was overjoyed to see that the official New Jersey government Twitter account celebrate legalization yesterday.)
Marijuana Moment covered Garland’s nomination questioning regarding cannabis:
“It does not seem to me useful the use of limited resources that we have to be pursuing prosecutions in states that have legalized and are regulating the use of marijuana, either medically or otherwise,” he said when asked by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I don’t think that’s a useful use.”
“I do think we need to be sure that there are no end runs around the state laws that criminal enterprises are doing. That kind of enforcement should be continued,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a good use of our resources where states have already authorized, and it only confuses people obviously within the state.”
That view is consistent with policies put into place under Obama—known as the Cole memorandum—and then rescinded by President Donald Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
While Joe Biden certainly wasn’t the first choice of most drug policy reformers, the priorities of his AG nominee do follow an evolution in the thinking of Biden, who deservedly has a reputation for perpetuating harmful Drug War policies as a senator. It was great to hear that Garland, a current federal judge and former prosecutor, understands the need to let states implement their own cannabis policies while also addressing the systemic racism built into the War on Drugs. While it is great news that Merrick Garland will adhere to a states’ rights cannabis policy, it is imperative that new US Attorneys follow Garland’s lead on cannabis, and other drugs as Oregon won’t be the only state to move forward with drug decriminalization and medicinal psilocybin therapy laws. The times they are a-changin’ and even our nation’s top law enforcement officers are evolving.