Who Will You Blame When Jeff Sessions Starts Locking People Up For Smoking A Joint?
I bet there are a lot of House Democrats relieved that they don't have to go on the record voting for or against Trump's nominees for the Cabinet From Hell. Only the Senate votes on nominations-- and all the Democratic senators had the good sense to vote against Betsy DeVos and Tom Price. These two are going to make millions of Americans very unhappy, one by screwing up public education and the other by screwing up healthcare. Even the worst of the worst reactionary fake Democrats-- a Heidi Heitkamp, a Joe Manchin, a Joe Donnelly or a Claire McCaskill knew better than to hitch a rid of those two runaway trains to eternal infamy. I thought the same would go for Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the KKK Senator from Alabama who was confirmed February 8 to be Attorney General, 52-47. But one of the bad Dems-- Joe Manchin-- did vote to confirm sessions Sessions.
When Sessions swung into action this week-- targeting transgender children, re-upping with the private prison industry, backing up Trump's draconian round-ups of immigrants and preparing to start up the dismally failed war on drugs by targeting states that have legalized marijuana, did you wonder who was at fault? When Sessions starts turning the private prisons into concentration camps, Americans should blame everyone who voted to confirm him-- i.e., all the esteemed Republican senators plus West Virginia's Joe Manchin.
Recently a friend asked me if I wanted to invest in a marijuana ice cream business here in California. It appears to be a good opportunity-- except for one factor: Jeff Sessions. I passed on the opportunity. Except for on the days Neil young delivered a new album to me personally, I had given up on marijuana in 1969. Recently, my body wracked with the gruesome impacts of chemo treatment side effects, my doctor urged me to try ameliorating the horror show with some marijuana oil. I was reluctant but finally did it. I had been unable to sleep and unable to eat, which means unable to heal. The first time I took a tiny bit on marijuana oil I slept like a log and woke up starving. I had lost between 60 and 70 pounds and looked like I had escaped from one of Jeff Sessions' future concentration camps. But the marijuana oil soon had me packing on the pounds again... and I was soon traveling around the world to places like Thailand, Russia and Azerbaijan. I'm looking forward to a trip to Tierra del Fuego again.
Sessions isn't going to Tierra del Fuego or anywhere else. He's looking for a brawl with the pro-marijuana folks-- and that includes a lot of Trump supporters. Joseph Mulkerin wrote yesterday in The Observer that that battle is tantamount to political suicide for anyone who tries to turn back the hands of time on this issue. On the same day Trump was (kind of) elected, the marijuana legalization movement "had enjoyed perhaps its greatest electoral success to date, as voters in eight states approved either recreational or medical cannabis. Just 10 days later, however, activists were forced to grapple with the potential of Sessions, a man who repeatedly chastised the Obama justice department for its failure to enforce federal drug laws being elevated to the highest office in the land."
Brian Vincente, one of the nation’s leading marijuana attorneys and the former campaign director of Colorado’s 2012 ballot initiative argued that, with the crucial role the burgeoning cannabis industry had come to play in the state’s economy, it would be difficult for Sessions to role back progress on the issue if he tried.
“You have 28 states with medical marijuana. Eight states with legalization, there is a lot of government bureaucracy that is supportive of marijuana legalization. Our state generates about $200 million dollars a year in tax revenue. So there’s a lot of entrenched interests and I could see this being a tough battle for Sessions to take on.” Vincente further argued that resistance to federal enforcement could even take the form of jury nullification. “I’ve tried a number of cases in front of juries, and when they know that they and their neighbors voted to legalize marijuana we have prosecutors trying to put people in jail for something that should not be a crime.”
Jeremy Ettinger, a DC-based marijuana activist, also expressed confidence that direct public pressure could bring politicians to bear. In December he led a group into Sessions’ office, where he said he had a “very good,” 45-minute exchange with Sessions’ staff. Ettinger argued that his group had set out to “build some goodwill” with Sessions, and that Sessions’ confirmation hearing-- in which he took a markedly less extreme tone on the issue-- was a testament to their success. “He was a gentleman. A gentleman doesn’t say people who abuse marijuana are ‘not good people.’”
Although Ettinger acknowledged Sessions had an “implicit bias” which prejudiced him against Cannabis users, Ettinger ultimately predicted that because the White House was intrinsically seeking “less controversy” the issue would be a relatively low priority for the justice department.
The medical marijuana community has articulated its own set of concerns. Although the Rohrbacher-Farr Amendment currently prohibits the justice department from using federal funds against medical marijuana patients, it is slated to expire on April 28. In anticipation of a potential crackdown, Americans for Safer Access, which lobbies on behalf of medical cannabis, is bringing thousands of activists to DC to lobby representatives for its renewal. Beth Collins, ASA’s director of legislative, stressed that Rohrbacher-Farr was the only tool medical patients had to protect them in the event of a draconian crackdown.
“The problem is, under federal law, [Sessions] would be operating legally… In a federal Court he would not be using States’ rights; you can’t use the defense that ‘I’m a medical patient in my state.’”
Steve Sarich, a prominent Washington-based medical activist had a markedly more optimistic outlook. Sarich expressed confidence that, given Trump’s own longstanding support for medical, Sessions’ prohibitionist tendencies would be kept in check. “He’s gonna do exactly what the fuck he’s told or he’s gonna be fired-- and you know that Trump made that real clear to him.”
Trump’s stance on recreational, by contrast, has wavered considerably over the years. In 1990 he called for the legalization of all drugs. By 2015 however, he came out as an opponent, claiming legalization in Colorado had gone “very bad.” Although Trump affirmed that he still favored allowing the states to decide, the appointment of Sessions would suggest his commitment is tepid at best. Given Trump’s personal antipathy, it isn’t all that hard to imagine his giving the green light to Sessions to authorize federal crackdowns.
The one thing which might give him pause are the political ramifications. With Trump already facing significant backlash for his immigration policy and controversial executive orders, going after marijuana and against the will of the millions of Americans who voted for it this past November would almost be politically suicidal.
After Spicer's announcement yesterday there were, predictably, quite a few reactions from industry leaders. Here are a few:
• Christie Strong, Marketing Communications Manager of Kiva Confections:The release yesterday of the new Quinnipiac poll showed that although Americans elected (kind of elected) a Republican president and a Republican Congress, voters disagree with Republican policy across the board. And marijuana policy is no exception. Other than the Jeff Sessions demographic-- old white Republicans-- everyone wants marijuana legal. The findings on pot:
“Over 60% of Americans supports cannabis legalization. It is one of the few bi-partisan issues that actually has the potential to unite us right now. Our country and many of our citizens are still recovering from the devastation of a failed Drug War- it would be a crime to waste any more resources prohibiting adult access to this safe, effective medicine.”
• Steve Gormley, CEO of Seventh Point LLC
"Sean Spicer's comments on recreational marijuana seem to be a disturbing departure from Trump's purported position on States' rights. We will have to see how this plays out. I suspect this issue will end up being litigated at the Supreme Court. Let's not forget however, this is the same guy who falsely reported on the attendance on the inauguration."
• Jeffrey Zucker, President of Green Lion Partners
“The comments from Secretary Spicer are ignorant and disappointing, although not unexpected. The cannabis industry will fight any pressure from the federal government to set back the significant progress that's been made thus far. The incredibly positive medical, social, and economic impact cannabis legalization has had on regulated states is undeniable. Singling out the Adult-Use market is short-sighted. Perhaps most importantly, it's ignoring the will of the people, which national polls now show are in favor of full legalization. Offering safe and regulated cannabis serves to eliminate the illegitimate market and racial disparity in enforcement. I hope that the administration takes the time to truly immerse and educate themselves on cannabis before making any destructive decisions.”
• Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech:
"Today's news coming out of the administration regarding the adult use of cannabis is, of course, disappointing. We have hoped and still hope that the federal government will respect states' rights in the same manner they have on several other issues. The economic impact, job creation, and tax collection associated with both medical and recreational legalization have been tremendous throughout the country. We hope the new administration really takes the time to understand that the money is either going into the states' coffers or making its way to drug cartels. We also hope that the states make a point of defending their independence in regards to this and protect their constituents."
• Isaac Dietrich, CEO of MassRoots:
"Colorado is one of the only states in the nation that is seeing a decline in opioid deaths -- that's not a coincidence. Cannabis is a healthy alternative to pain pills and heroin, not a gateway to it. I have a feeling our stock is going to take a beating tomorrow, but that just creates an opportunity for investors who believe in the long-term trajectory of the cannabis market. As a medical-cannabis focused app, I believe MassRoots will actually benefit from this policy as it will cut off funding for our competitors."
• Danny Davis, Convectium, Managing Partner:
"We are hopeful that Mr. Spicer’s comments are not representative of the entire administration. Many of the states who helped elect President Trump just voted to also support recreational marijuana; it is hard to imagine that he would push an agenda with the support ratings where they are. As an equipment company we represent both the recreational and medicinal markets, but we would hate to see an action that would stop the current multi-state momentum for recreational."
Marijuana should be made legal in the U.S., voters say 59 - 36 percent. Republicans are opposed 61 - 35 percent and voters over 65 years old are opposed 51 - 42 percent. Every other party, gender, education, age and racial group listed supports legalized marijuana.
Voters support 93 - 6 percent legalized marijuana for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor.
The government should not enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use, voters say 71 - 23 percent. Voters in every listed group support this position.