What’s up with Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions?
The Attorney General was not invited to President Trump’s Camp David retreat with cabinet members and top GOP congressional leaders; he backed down on fighting for Trump’s ban on allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military; and he is withstanding hurricane force winds calling for his resignation after rescinding the Obama-era Cole memo on Jan. 4 that allowed for a more passive Justice Department policy towards cannabis laws, especially in states where marijuana is legal and a booming, job-creating, tax-generating industry.
Recreational pot became legal in California on New Year’s Day, joining eight other states, including Colorado, Washington and Nevada with laws allowing regulated recreational use of marijuana; 29 states and Washington DC already allow the use of medical marijuana. But even Trump-voting Republicans recognize pot’s potential value: Colorado has already generated hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and now anyone over the age of 21 in California is permitted to carry up to one ounce of pot without fear of being busted.
Session’s new memo leaves enforcement of harsh federal marijuana laws up to regional federal prosecutors at the expense – his critics argue – of going after pill-pushers to quell the burgeoning opioid crisis. And how now should US attorneys regard the 2014 amendment by California Democratic Rep. Sam Farr and Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher attached to the federal budget prohibiting the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute medical cannabis businesses?
“The attorney general of the United States has just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels,” said Rohrabacher.
“By attacking the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization, Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributed to marijuana itself. He is doing the bidding of an out-of-date law enforcement establishment that wants to wage a perpetual weed war and seize private citizens’ property in order to finance its backward ambitions.”
California state officials reacted swiftly. Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Executive Lori Ajax indicated Thursday that they would defend the state’s marijuana law if one of the four federal prosecutors in California decided to enforce the federal law that equates pot to heroin. Additionally, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer said he will re-introduce a bill to make California a sanctuary state, prohibiting state employees from providing federal agents with the names, addresses and other pertinent pot-related information.
But since Sessions did not call for strong enforcement or a substantive policy change, consumers and investors are wondering why he made the announcement in the first place.
“The announcement was largely symbolic,” Patrick Moen, general counsel of Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that invests in marijuana businesses, told the Associated Press on Jan. 6. “This kind of stunt will not have a substantial effect on the industry.”
On the other hand, Sessions badly wants to jump-start the failed “war on drugs,” for which he famously criticized former President Barack Obama.
“You can’t have the president of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink,” Sessions said at the time.
During a 2016 Senate hearing, he was more morally simplistic. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he said. In fact, he once said the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”
But statistics don’t back up him up. “The data from the federally-funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows a downward trend in the use of cannabis by teenagers—both in the country as a whole and in the majority of states where the drug is legal,” reports Newsweek.
California is very familiar with FBI and DEA raids on pot farms that produced safe marijuana for medical marijuana dispensaries before the 2014 budget amendment. The 2001 federal raid in West Hollywood was traumatic. Scott Imler, author of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, passed by California voters in 1996, worked with the City of West Hollywood to set up the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center to strictly provide terminally or chronically ill patients with medical marijuana with a doctor’s note.
Imler, who the FBI investigated for drug distribution, went on a hunger strike after the Oct. 25, 2001 DEA raid. He was joined by a number of AIDS activists, including ACT UP/LA’s Pete Jimenez who needed the marijuana to alleviate side effects from his 35-pills-a-day AIDS meds to relief from his neuropathy.
“Some days, it feels like razor blades are cutting into my skin,” Jimenez said at the time. “Then, there’s the diarrhea and vomiting from AIDS medications.” Jimenez died of AIDS on April 13, 2012. He was 48.
California established the Bureau of Cannabis Control, which is linked to the public health department with lots of facts and resources, including these handy tips: You can consume cannabis on private property but you cannot consume, smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in public places. Property owners and landlords may ban the use and possession of cannabis on their properties.
Additionally, you cannot consume or possess cannabis on federal lands like national parks, even if the park is in California. It is illegal to take your pot across state lines, even if you are traveling to another state where cannabis is legal.
Take the tips seriously – Jeff Sessions is watching.