No one has a monopoly on foolish ideas. But U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sure took a shot at the moon on marijuana policy.
Thanks to Sessions, the federal government in effect re-declared the once simmering War on Drugs.
Specifically the Republican attorney general took steps to bring back Prohibition-style enforcement against marijuana use in states that have voted to legalize it for medicinal or recreational use.
In announcing his decision last week, Sessions rescinded a pair of Justice Department memos from the President Barack Obama-era. These memos served as smart federal legal guides to the rules of engagement for state-sanctioned marijuana markets that remain strictly illegal under federal law.
The practical effect of Sessions’ moves is he threw new doubt over this important 21st century social experiment. Marijuana prohibition was one of the failed fronts in the U.S. drug war, which fostered a criminal underground and puts too many people in jail.
Already more than half of the states have disgreed with the feds and allow some form of medical or recreational marijuana. Washington was among the first to allow medicinal marijuana; in 2012 voters agreed to authorize a state-regulated market for sales of recreational marijuana, too.
Since 2018 is an election year, there ought to be blow-back from voters upset with the GOP’s ineptness on the marijuana issue. In the meantime, we encourage our state leaders — and voters — to stand up for the regulated sales of marijuana.
But rather than look for sound science-based evidence — or even to promote the federal study of pot use and how to regulate markets sensibly — Sessions is trying to undermine a new multibillion-dollar industry. This from a former prosecutor and man who has equated marijuana with heroin.
So far, there isn’t evidence that legalized marijuana sales are “leaking” in harmful quantifies from pot-legal states into pot-prohibition states. There is a shortage of evidence that youths are being adversely affected by legal marijuana, though this is something that deserves close watch by state regulators.
Violent crime rates keep dropping in Washington – faster than the national average – since legalization.
Washington state legislators didn’t stop with the voter initiative. They later worked in a bipartisan way to tighten regulations on weed sales by merging the recreational and medicinal markets into one.
It seems crazy that in 2018 anyone would need to explain to the federal government that a 21st century policy experiment around legal marijuana has strong public and bipartisan support and deserves a shot.
Yet here we are — watching an attempt to remake the failed War on Drugs. Enough of the knuckle-headedness!