Despite his own task force recommendations to leave the cannabis status quo alone, Jeff Sessions just can’t get marijuana off his mind. One would think that with everything else going on in this administration, Sessions would have better things to do than to mess with weed, but no. He simply and truly regards cannabis as dangerous and without value.
His paranoia bleeds into the cannabis connoisseur’s daily life as they wonder if a DOJ crackdown is not only in the works, but coming down fast. Last week, Sessions sent letters to the governors of Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska in response to their requests that the Obama era policy of not interfering with state’s rights be left alone. Sessions letters were cool in tone and more than implied that compliances were being broken, that interstate trafficking and emergency room calls were at a high and that sales to minors were a serious concern.
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The legal cannabis industry has produced thousands of new jobs and over $6 billion in revenue for states. That revenue is used for schools, local law enforcement, healthcare, drug treatment programs and many other social and governmental issues. Colorado has had so much revenue in the past from taxes that they gave part of it back to the people. These are good things in our society that bolster the economy. Plus, fourteen more states are geared up to pass legalization initiatives, many this year. So why is Sessions so hell bent on putting a stop to it all?
To put it simply, he hates marijuana and believe reefer madness hype, as evidenced by his letters. Last year, when he was yet an Alabama senator, he made the claim that this message needs to be sent with clarity: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” This year, as Attorney General for the Trump administration, he’s said that cannabis is “only slightly less awful” than heroin. Meanwhile, people are dying from heroin and other opiate fueled overdoses while cannabis has yet to kill.
The letters Sessions sent to the legal state governors warned that he had “serious concerns” about legalization. All four letters were very similar in tone. Though in Oregon he used a 2017 state police impact report that claimed that as much as two-thirds of the cannabis at dispensaries came from the black market and that interstate smuggling was at an all-time high. Then he asked two governors in the same language to prove that all cannabis businesses were compliant with the law and said the ‘regulatory structures’ of their programs were under question.
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Colorado’s governor Hickenlooper recently met with Sessions regarding the letter and remains optimistic that a crackdown isn’t in the works. In part because Sessions has a lot more than space cakes on his plate as Attorney General.
Spokesperson for the New Federalism Fund, Patrick Rosenstiel, looked at Sessions’ letters with optimism as well, saying that they showed a willingness to work with legal states. However, he told the L.A. Times “that there is still a need for congressional action to provide clarity for officials at the local, state and federal levels.”
Session’s anti-crime task force’s lukewarm findings on cannabis and its societal harm effectively recommended that the Obama era “Cole memo,” composed by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, stay in place, which basically outlines how states can avoid federal persecution by following the guidelines the people had voted in.
While Sessions ignores his own task force and sends ominous letters to governors, we can only speculate as to how far he’ll take his dislike for the herb. We can only hope that if he does go looking, he finds compliance, compassion and state revenue that are all very difficult with which to argue.