President Trump recently announced his nominee for U.S. Attorney General, and it is unclear whether this nominee will be better or worse than the former Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to the growing cannabis momentum toward federal legality. William Barr, who served as President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general, has not yet explicitly expressed his stance on the recent state-wide cannabis legalization movement, but a look into his past stance on drugs should cause the industry apprehension and unease.
During Mr. Barr’s time with the late President Bush, who was known for his push for “more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors” in an effort to battle drug use, Barr endorsed a report pushing to increase incarceration as a way of controlling violent crimes.
Although today’s popular view on drug policy drastically differs from that of the 1990’s, even Barr’s recent efforts toward defending the criminal justice system should cause concern for cannabis activists. For example, in 2002 Mr. Barr associated drug trafficking with terrorism and designated the war on drugs as the “biggest frustration” he faced under Bush. More recently, in 2015 he wrote a letter to lawmakers urging them not to suggest any sentencing reform bills.
The tough-on-drugs policy positions were passed down to Barr’s daughter, Mary Daly, who is the current director of opioid enforcement and prevention efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office. Daly’s platform comes right out of the former war on drugs playbook and she advocates for harsher criminal enforcement as a means to combat the opioid epidemic. She also supported abolishing the Obama administration’s more lenient policies for lower-level drug offenders, according to CBS News.
It is likely that President Trump’s nominee could be more indicative and in-line with the “Memoranda of President” Trump released in October 2017, which can be found at the end of § 801 of the Controlled Substances Act. Trump’s memoranda are called “Combatting the National Drug Demand and Opioid Crisis” and directs that it shall be “the policy of the United States to use all lawful means to combat the drug demand and opioid crisis currently afflicting our country.”
The cannabis industry is trying to determine if William Barr, if confirmed by the Senate, will prove to be any better than his predecessor Jeffrey Sessions, who believed that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Because the landscape for drug policy is substantially different than that of the 1990’s, it is difficult to foreshadow how he would address the federal-state conflict surrounding cannabis laws, but make no mistake, Mr. Barr will be a strong rule of law enforcer.
The Drug Policy Alliance called Barr a “fierce advocate for mass incarceration and punitive drug policies”, and although times have changed since Mr. Barr’s service to the White House in the 1990’s it is unclear if his former war on drugs polices have evolved like the rest of the country.
Watching how Senator Corey Gardner handles this nomination might be a key insight as to whether Mr. Barr will be better or worse for the ever-growing state run cannabis industry.
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He uses his past experience as a Marine Corps federal prosecutor, DEA Drug Task Force Commander and Colorado state narcotics prosecutor to assist his clients in establishing strict regulatory compliance protocols at both the state, federal and international levels. Read his full bio at MJBusinessAttorneys.com.