Attorney General Jess Sessions announced on Tuesday his intentions to crack down on drug cartels and gun crimes in order to curb the rising trend of violence and homicides. The implication of the rising violence is that there could be a national crime wave brewing.
What remains to be seen is the approach the Session’s Department of Justice will take in enforcing existing marijuana laws. Under the Obama administration, in what’s known as the Cole memo, the DOJ outlined their intention to relax the enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
On Feb 23rd, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that he believes we’ll see a greater enforcement of marijuana laws when there is a conflict with states where it’s legal for recreational use.
The legalization of recreational marijuana use in states like Colorado and Washington has potentially hurt the drug cartels that import marijuana into the U.S. There has been a decrease in the seizure of marijuana at the border. As Andrea Noble with the Washington Times explains:
Annual reports from the U.S. Border Patrol show that seizures of marijuana have declined steadily since fiscal 2013, when 2.4 million pounds of marijuana were seized at the border. In fiscal 2016, the Border Patrol reported seizing 1.2 million pounds of pot
The possibility exists, however, that the illegal operators are instead hiding in plain sight in states where marijuana has been legalized.
There are competing factions both for and against marijuana legalization. Supporters of legalization claim that it will help increase tax revenue, reduce crime, provide medical benefits and lower criminal justice expenditures. Critics of legalization argue that it will promote crime and other drug use, diminish traffic safety, harm public health and impact teen educational achievements.
The truth is that the legalizations for recreational use in some states is too recent to provide any conclusive data in terms of drug use and crime. If anything the data has shown minimal impacts in either category.
It’s a wait-and-see game with the DOJ, at this point, and we won’t quite know how their approach to marijuana laws will be used to crack down on drug cartels and overall crime.