Yesterday, the senate confirmed Loretta Lynch as United States Attorney General. Ms. Lynch’s confirmation represents a shift from the policies of Eric Holder, especially concerning the future of marijuana legislation in the United States.
During her confirmation hearings, Ms. Lynch took a firm posture against changing marijuana laws, clearly stating that she does not support the legalization of marijuana and the Department of Justice under her watch would not support legalization. This contrasts with the policies of Eric Holder, who did not stand in the way of states that legalized marijuana and, according to The New York Times, had questioned whether marijuana should remain classified as a Schedule I drug. Ms. Lynch opposes any change in marijuana’s classification, which presents a problem for further efforts to legalize marijuana in the United States.
Currently, the Department of Justice does not prosecute marijuana offenses, according to a 2013 memorandum (available here). However, the memorandum does include eight DOJ priorities, which Ms. Lynch has said permit federal prosecutors to take action when necessary. These include prosecuting offenses when marijuana crosses state lines or supports criminal enterprises.
Ms. Lynch’s confirmation means the quagmire of state and federal policy regarding marijuana will continue. As Ms. Lynch has pledged to focus on more pressing issues during her tenure, it looks to be some time before the Department of Justice, and the United States, implements a clear marijuana policy.