Attorney General nominee Garland demonstrates favorable stance to cannabis

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Cannabis is one step closer to becoming a federally legal substance in the United States, what with Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland primed to push things in the right direction.

Well, that is if President Joe Biden’s AG pick manages to bag the eagerly anticipated position as the head of the Department of Justice.

During Garland’s confirmation hearing on Monday, February 22, the federal judge announced his desires to cut back on low-level cannabis crime enforcement pertaining to minor cases, such as possession.

He also clarified his plans, should he be selected as AG, to tackle the subject of social justice for minority groups — something that he believes is largely associated with federal reform issues.

Mr. Garland could metamorphose the nation’s relationship with cannabis

Previously, New Jersey Democrat and U.S. Senator Cory Booker grilled Garland on his intentions to reinstate a different version of the Cole Memo. President Donald Trump’s first Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rescinded The Cole Memorandum in January 2018.

As a follow-up move, the Sensible Enforcement of Cannabis Act was introduced in an attempt to preserve the protections contained in the memo.

In response to Booker, Garland said that he has no desire to spend “limited resources” trying to catch people who’ve committed nonviolent crimes, such as being caught in possession of small quantities of cannabis.

“This is a question of the prioritization of our resources and prosecutorial discretion. It does not seem to me a useful use of limited resources that we have, to be pursuing prosecutions in states that have legalized and that are regulating the use of [cannabis], either medically or otherwise. I don’t think that’s a useful use.”

However, Garland did make a point of noting that he sees the importance of preventing criminal enterprises skirting around state laws.

“So that kind of enforcement should be continued. But I don’t think it’s a good use of our resources, where states have already authorized. That only confuses people, obviously, within the state,” he added.

Judge Garland acknowledged two problems with cannabis enforcement

During his discussion, Judge Garland spoke about two types of cannabis enforcement that he feels must be addressed this year.

Firstly, he expressed his disinterest in using federal law enforcement resources for non-violent, low-level cannabis enforcement; something that he says is not an effective way of using time.

Garland went on to say that cannabis law enforcement unfairly targets communities of color. As a direct effect of this, he believes that those affected have had their quality of life and economic outlook undeniably tarnished.

At an earlier point of the hearing, Garland announced that he is “deeply aware” of the social justice movement that has swept across the U.S. In regards to minorities and how they often have the finger pointed at them much more than whites for similar crimes, Garland boldly used cannabis as an example.

“Here’s a nonviolent crime, with respect to usage, that does not require us to incarcerate people, that we’re incarcerating at different rates, significantly different rates, of different communities. And that is wrong.”

Georgia Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff spurred on another round of responses from Garland as the hearing progressed. When questioned by Ossoff about how the prospective AG plans to handle systemic racism, he said there are “a lot of things” the DOJ can do to make a change.

“One important way, I think, is to focus on the crimes that really matter,” Garland concluded.