President-elect Trump announced his first wave of nominations for top positions in his administration, and things are not looking good for advocates of freedom and civil rights.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, the nomination for CIA director, has repeatedly called for ramping up domestic surveillance and rolling back reforms implemented after the Snowden leaks.
With four more states voting to legalize the recreational use of cannabis – including California – and four more joining the long list of medical use states, it is abundantly clear that Americans see the injustice of pot prohibition.
However, this progress against the drug war may be in danger under the new administration.
Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, who has a long record as a rabid prohibitionist, pushing absurd and baseless tropes in his crusade against cannabis law reform. He is one of the few lawmakers who cling to fallacies on cannabis that can only be summed up by the 1930s propaganda film Reefer Madness.
Sessions would head the Department of Justice (DoJ) and oversee the agencies involved in carrying out the drug war, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). There are assuredly many drug warriors in those bureaucracies itching at the chance to crack down on cannabis once again.
Over the past couple of years, Congress has restricted DEA and DoJ from going after people and businesses in states with legal cannabis, by removing funding for such activities. These restrictions are up for another vote in March of 2017, and could face heavy lobbying by Sessions and his allies to discontinue them – freeing the soldiers in the war on pot.
Sessions has repeatedly lambasted the softening of pot prohibition, calling for government to continue locking people in cages for using a plant, based on myths about its alleged danger.
“Now we have states legalizing it, and they are already talking about recriminalizing it. It is a mistake. We have seen that experiment before. Lives are at stake,” said Sessions. “The federal government led the way with tough sentencing, eliminating parole, targeting dangerous drugs in effective ways, and states and local governments followed.”
Sessions, in the absence of factual data, continually promotes absurd lines of reasoning for his backward stance on pot prohibition. At a hearing with former AG Eric Holder, Sessions said, “Lady Gaga said she is addicted to it and it is not harmless.”
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” proclaimed the drug war crusader at another hearing on the federal response to state cannabis laws, as he pushed the “gateway drug” myth.
Time and time again, Sessions has made his position clear that federal government should prevent freedom and medical advancement, pushing falsehoods in a desperate attempt to continue the drug war unabated.
Marijuana.com compiled a few choice quotes.
“We need grown ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” he said. “You’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think, had we not talked about it.”
Sessions, a former U.S. attorney, also criticized President Obama for his administration’s approach to the issue. “His lax treatment and comments on marijuana, it’s been obvious, it reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs, begun really, when Nancy Reagan started the ‘Just Say No’ program,” the senator said…
“You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink, saying I used marijuana when I was in high school and it is no different than smoking,” he said. “It is different. And you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the States that have made it legal. I think we need to be careful about this.”
In a 2014 hearing, Sessions laid into FBI Director James Comey for implying he was thinking of loosening the bureau’s hiring restrictions on people who have used marijuana. “Do you understand that that could be interpreted as one more example of leadership in America dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use and that could undermine our ability to convince young people not to go down that dangerous path?” he asked.
There is a glimmer of hope in the fact that Donald Trump, calling himself a “states person,” has pledged to continue allowing states to end cannabis prohibition as they see fit.
“I really believe you should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation,” Trump said during a campaign rally. “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”
Similarly, in an interview with a Denver TV station, he said, “I think it’s up to the states. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration could spend too much of their political capital on other crusades, notably on the immigration issue. Sessions shares Trump’s position that millions more undocumented immigrants should be rounded up and deported.
Attempting to crack down on states with legal cannabis could bring a huge backlash, not only in the sense of taking away freedom and medical choice, but also on the economic front. The Colorado cannabis industry is now contributing more to the state’s economy than any other industry, generating billions of dollars and creating tens of thousands of jobs.
Hopefully, these realities will prevent a rabid prohibitionist from renewing the war on cannabis that is rooted in racism and silencing dissent – a war that has gone on for too long and ruined the lives of millions.