Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, January 29, 2015

AG nominee Loretta Lynch says she does not support marijuana legalization

This NPR report provides details on the brief discussion of federal marijuana law and policy during her first day of confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch:

[S]he was asked about marijuana, and whether she supports legalizing it. "Senator, I do not," Lynch told Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., when he asked if she supported making pot legal.

The moment stood in contrast to other exchanges between Lynch and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as she defended Obama's right to take executive action on immigration rules and aligned herself with the president's view on U.S. interrogation programs, saying, "Waterboarding is torture."

Sessions asked Lynch about marijuana during the afternoon portion of her hearing. And he noted that the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency also disagrees with the idea of legalizing marijuana.

The senator then read aloud a quote from President Obama from last January, in which he told The New Yorker, "I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.  I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

When Sessions asked Lynch if she agreed with that assessment, she said, "Well senator, 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 am able to share."

She added, "Not only do I not support legalization of marijuana – it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently, to support the legalization, nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general."

Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink


I am not surprised by Ms. Lynch's stance on the legalization of marijuana. Her response was the answer that the committee was looking for. While I do believe she is against the legalization of marijuana, it would be weird to pick a battle over that, when there were so many other contentious issues to be covered.

It would also be weird if the incoming Attorney General said they were in favor of the legalization of marijuana. I think that is for Congress to decide (or better yet the states!). I think it's the AG's job to enforce the federal laws and decide what are top priorities of enforcement.

Overall, I am not worried by her comments. I think it is very reasonable political move. However, if she would have taken a harder stance and given an indication that she would seek to ramp up enforcement of federal marijuana laws, even in states that have legalized it, I would be more worried.

Posted by: Ryan Aguiar | Jan 29, 2015 3:13:35 PM

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