District attorneys and state attorneys general spent much of last weekend addressing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ overturning of a memo that allowed states to address the legality of recreational pot.
Curry County District Attorney Everett Dial said the issue won’t be addressed at his level, but at the state. He is a state employee, but his jurisdiction does not cover federal issues.
“Now I’m hearing (Sessions) is saying prosecutors can do what they want, as far as enforcing the federal law,” Dial said. “But we don’t enforce federal statutes in the state of Oregon. If the feds want to prosecute a case, it’d have to come down to a federal court.”
He said in the rare event a case is referred to his office by the federal government, he still must find a state statute on which to charge the defendant.
“Where Oregon law and federal law don’t agree, we go with Oregon law,” he said.
The attorneys general in most states where pot is legal — there are now 12, including Oregon — cited the will of the voters and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution as reasons they would fight to keep marijuana legal.
Others noted what they called the hypocrisy in Sessions’ ruling. as he and many other Republicans are adamant supporters of the 10th Amendment, which leaves to the states decisions regarding issues that are not addressed in the U.S. Constitution.
According to numerous national media outlets, many counties don’t have the money, jail space, time or political will to start prosecuting people for pot. Nor do many think they would be able to seat a jury, considering the vast majority of citizens favor the legalization of marijuana. And priorities have changed, too, with the opiate epidemic sweeping the country being much more important in the eyes of many in law enforcement.
State attorneys general did say, however, they would continue prosecuting large-scale cases that involve illegal grows, drug cartels and smuggling.
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org.