Former GOP Congressman Ron Paul has called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down after he moved to repeal an Obama-era policy of restricting federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal.
Sessions announced he would be rescinding the Cole Memo on Thursday, giving federal prosecutors the opportunity to go after marijuana users, producers and distributors, regardless of the drug's legal status.
Paul, who has sought the presidency of the United States on three occasions, including in 2008 and 2012, called Sessions' decision revoke the policy "un-American" and "unconstitutional."
"He represents something that is so un-American, as far as I'm concerned," the Texas libertarian told CNN's Michael Smerconish.
“People should have the right or responsibility of dealing with what is dangerous,” Paul said. “Once you get into this thing about government is going to protect us against ourselves, there’s no protection of liberty.”
Marijuana is illegal at the federal level in the U.S., however, the Obama administration had adopted a hands-off approach, giving states more control over regulation.
Recreational use is currently legal in eight states, as well as the District of Columbia. Another 22 states also permit some form of medical marijuana use, with 15 allowing use of a less potent medical marijuana extract.
Republicans have been split on the issue, with many arguing that leaving regulation up to individual states has long been central to the party's platform on issues including Obamacare, guns, abortion and gay marriage.
Sessions has argued that he does not see marijuana use as a states' rights issue, however.
"I do not believe there's any argument, because a state legalized marijuana, that the federal law against marijuana is no in existence," he told radio host Hugh Hewitt in October.
A press release from Sessions' office called the move to rescind the Cole memo a "return to the rule of law."
"[It] is also a return of trust and local control to federal prosecutors, who know where and how to deploy Justice Department resources most effectively to reduce violent crime, stem the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantle criminal gangs," the press release said.
It quoted Sessions as saying the move "simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles."
Paul condemned the war on drugs as a "totally illegal system", however, adding: “The war on drugs, to me, is a war on liberty."
"I think that we overly concentrate on the issue of the drug itself, and I concentrate on the issue of freedom of choice, on doing things that are of high risk,” he said. “And we permit high risk all the time. … Generally, we allow people to eat what they want, and that is very risky. But we do overly concentrate on what people put into their bodies.”
Still, the politician said he does not believe Sessions will be successful in his bid to crack down on marijuana use.
“I predict that Sessions is not going to be victorious on this,” Paul told Smerconish. “And unfortunately, it’s for reasons that I don’t get excited about. It’s because the states want to collect all of those taxes (on marijuana), so it becomes this tax issue,” he said.