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Don't count on legal pot under the Trump administration

Louisiana voters turned out in force last year to help sweep Donald Trump into the White House. But those who may have done so in the hope of seeing marijuana become legal at the federal level are likely to be disappointed.

Although as of January 24, Senator Jeff Sessions had not yet been confirmed as United States Attorney General, Sessions has a long record as an anti-marijuana crusader. As a senator from Alabama, in 1996, Sessions called for mandatory executions of those twice convicted of trafficking pot. The criteria for the death penalty only required that the offender oversee an operation involving five or more people making at least minimum wage, which at the time was only $4.25 per hour.

The DEA under former President Obama

On at least the federal level, under the prior administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency ceased pursuing marijuana users and sellers in states where weed is now legal. The current administrator of the DEA is Chuck Rosenberg, a 2015 appointee of Loretta Lynch, Obama's attorney general.

Since 2013, the DEA has been guided by the tenets in "The Cole Memo," which detailed the way the agency targeted federal resources in marijuana cases where states had decriminalized or legalized its use in some form. Its provisions included directives to take a hands-off approach to prosecuting people over pot sales, use and distribution.

What will change and what will stay the same?

The chain of command begins with the president. He nominates the Attorney General, who, upon Senate confirmation, directs policies at the DEA. Should Sessions be confirmed and assume that position, he could remove Rosenberg and install someone who reverts to enforcing federal pot laws once again. However, the new administration has not indicated that Trump or his Cabinet members intend to change the status quo on marijuana laws or their enforcement.

As Louisiana is only beginning to show enlightenment regarding the medical use of marijuana, the relaxed federal marijuana policies have never had a major effect. Pot busts continue around the state and parish as always. Anyone who winds up facing state or federal drug charges should seek out experienced and qualified criminal defense atto rneys to fight for their acquittal in court.

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