On pot crackdown, Jeff Sessions won't win
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, vowing to reverse the Obama-era shambles that was made of the law, has promised to prosecute violators of federal marijuana laws, even in states whose voters have made weed legal.
According to the San Bernardino Sun:
U.S. [a]ttorney [g]eneral Jeff Sessions said Thursday that he will unleash prosecutors to enforce federal pot laws, a move widely seen as intended to slow cannabis-industry investment in states that have legalized the drug.
Though marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in eight states and the District of Columbia – and has been approved for medical use in a total of 29 states and D.C. – it remains illegal under federal law. Sessions on Thursday moved to rescind instructions from the Obama administration for federal prosecutors to tread lightly in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Sessions'[s] announcement came days after California's new pot rules kicked in, opening the nation's biggest cannabis market.
I understand the sentiment. And I like Sessions. But this is an oddly timed war he isn't likely to win.
To be sure, there is mounting evidence that pot legalization in states creates massive social problems. The disavowal of marijuana legalization by Colorado's own lefty governor pretty well tells us all we need to know about what widespread pot use in a state will do to it. It's also a historic fact that states and countries that legalize pot or otherwise relax marijuana laws always get around to reversing it. Alaska, Zurich, and Amsterdam are prime examples. The social disorder created and the soaring rehabilitation costs, not to mention the dead bodies on the freeways from impaired drivers, pretty well assures it. There is also a growing body of research that links marijuana use to schizophrenia in genetically inclined teenage boys.
But despite the fact that Sessions has the law in his corner, and it's been a badly abused law during the last administration, it's a law a lot of the people don't accept or follow – not for lack of law enforcement, but because they don't like the law, and even some lawmen are sick of having to enforce it. A widely disregarded law generally lacks legitimacy – quite unlike a measure that was just passed by the voters, as was the case in California.
Because the fact of the matter is, pot-smokers feel passionate about it. They like smoking pot, no matter what its effects on them, and don't want to be held as criminals for doing it. Some say pot helps them with medical problems. Others say it's just part of their constitutional "pursuit of happiness." A big problem with pot laws is that pot affects individual people differently, and those who claim to benefit tend to be the loudest.
It's not a mono-partisan thing. There are a significant number of right-wingers who favor marijuana legalization, including the late, great Milton Friedman and the late, great Bill Buckley, who was believed to have occasionally indulged in weed himself. There are principled libertarians on the right today who favor pot legalization such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and regular conservatives who say yes, too, such as surfer dude Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.
So for Sessions to stir up a hornet's nest around pot is unfortunate. It doesn't seem like a battle he is going to win. There will be big lawsuits for starters from some states, which will gum up Justice Department resources. And Sessions has quite a few things on his plate already where he can make a lasting impact, such as shutting down the illegal alien spigot, sanctioning Chavista Venezuelan and Castroite Cuban officials and cutting off their money-laundering streams, and taking on public corruption from the last administration.
Laws change when there is a consensus for them to change. The states that have legalized pot should be allowed to learn the hard way what pot legalization really brings, and the libertarians who don't want pot legal (not many, but I am one) can content themselves with the knowledge that human nature will eventually ensure that legislatures reverse this – in the great laboratory of the states dynamic. The other thing that might help would be for Congress to get in on the story and repeal marijuana laws at the federal level if this is where the public is going. But for now, the situation is fragmented. Until a better consensus is reached by the public, why go after pot?