A return to Reefer Madness…really?
You could forgive cannabis activists and marijuana entrepreneurs for assuming the war on weed was already over. With 29 medical marijuana states, 8 rec weed states with laws more permissive than Amsterdam’s, and CNN reporters hitting gas mask bongs on live TV,it seemed the war on weed had already burned out.
But someone didn’t get the memo (pun intended). On Jan. 4, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions rekindled the canna-battle by penning a new memo rescinding the Cole Memo, which had discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing weed-related charges in states where the substance is legal. That means basically all businesses associated with legal pot can now be raided by federal agents.
But is Sessions fully reinstating the War on Weed?
Who knows? The only recent comparison we have—oddly enough—comes from the early Obama years.
In the first three years of the Obama administration, there were more than 100 federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries. Obama was actually on pace to break George W. Bush’s record for dispensary busts.
Then Obama mellowed out and signed the Cole Memo, which changed everything. Over the next few years, cannabis entrepreneurs benefited from the feds’ hands-off approach, with venture capital money flowing into the weed businesses, and politicians including Cory Booker floating bills for nationwide legalization.
Last week, Sessions put a jarring halt to all that momentum. Marijuana stocks plummeted, and weed entrepreneurs are shaking in their boots. For good reason.
Regardless of your stance on legalization, this move exposes a whole host of contradictions.
First, Sessions claims to be a supporter of states rights…except when he’s not. And he’s usually not when states rights just happen to include human and civil rights.
When the feds try to preserve the voting rights of minorities, for example, or investigate police abuses, or require states to recognize same-sex marriage…Sessions calls all of that “federal overreach.”
It seems Sessions is all about states rights, except when it comes to weed. And this is especially hypocritical considering that, on the campaign trail, Trump said repeatedly that he was for the legalization of medical marijuana, and promised to leave the issue of recreational marijuana up to the states to decide.
Not that we should believe anything Trump says. But why would a man who brags incessantly about job creation and the strength of the economy allow his attorney general to target an industry that generated $6.7 billion dollars in sales in 2016 alone?
Again, no idea. But here’s what we do know: None of the doomsday predictions about legalization have thus far come to pass. Statistics show that, in states like Colorado and Washington, there’s been no significant rise in youth marijuana use, and traffic fatality rates have remained stable.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Session’s move is that we actually do have a drug crisis right now. In 2016 alone, more Americans died of drug overdoses than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War.
But none of those overdoses had anything to do with weed.
Tune in to The Feed tonight on Fusion for more more on Jeff Sessions’ war on weed.