Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week got the attention of folks in Colorado and California when he announced this week he was going to ignore “prosecutorial discretion” and target states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Advocates slowly looked up from their Nintendo Switch controllers, reached for some Cheetos, and said….”wuuuut?”
Seriously, the reaction has come from a motley group of people. Die-hard Progressives are making nice with State’s Rights Libertarians and Constitutionalists in taking the elfin AG to task. But I would say they’re barking up the wrong tree. The Attorney General’s job is to prosecute the laws passed by the Legislative Branch. There’s this cool old document that lays it out…it’s called the “Constitution.” But as has been the case for many years now, de facto laws are being passed by the Executive Branch. That is NOT how it is supposed to work.
Specifically, Sessions is ready to abandon the so-called “Cole Memo.” It was authored in 2013, by then–deputy attorney general James Cole. It basically called for the Department of Justice to shy away from prosecuting marijuana laws in states where it was made legal; and was being tightly regulated. Again…it’s a reasonable idea. But that’s not the way it’s done. Laws are supposed to be enacted by Congress, and enforced by the Executive Branch. There’s a reason for that. Google “separation of powers.” The group that passes law MUST be different from the group that enforces them. It is elegant in its simplicity; but it can be cumbersome. In this flash mob digital age where we want everything done by yesterday; we are too often succumbing to the temptation to do things the quick and easy way. The speed and efficiency with which the current President is erasing the Executive Orders and Memos approved by his predecessor should remind everyone why this separation of powers is so crucial. Easy come, easy go.
That having been said it is HIGH time we decriminalize marijuana. (Pun intended). I have been around people high on marijuana and raging drunk on Jack Daniels. And you have too. Be honest…who is the worse threat? Which one would you want driving the car in the other lane of the interstate? Which one would you prefer as a neighbor? All of the tired old arguments about Marijuana being a “gateway drug” sound silly when we are in the middle of an Opioid Epidemic. No, in a world where I have to show an ID to purchase Sudafed, throwing someone in jail for having a half-ounce of pot in their car seems silly.
Full disclosure. I have tried marijuana before. I *did* inhale. It did nothing for me. Plus the smell is enough to gag a maggot. I’ll stick with Sam Adams, thank you very much.
I am proud to report that my Congressman (Tom Garrett, (R) – 5th – Virginia) has introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the controlled-substances list. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1227 This is the proper way to handle this. This way, when the inevitable dystopian future comes down the turnpike, the Attorney General will have no legal authority to go after marijuana. He MAY, though, institute the Handmaid’s Tale. We’ll have to wait and see.
There are many other reasons decriminalizing marijuana is a good idea. It is a source of revenue that doesn’t target homeowners and producers. It will have at least SOME impact on lowering the prison population. I would like to think it might take some of the edge off of police/citizen interactions in some cases. Plus, I think there might be some medically-useful qualities to marijuana that we’re not exploring because of the taboo associated with it.
But the BEST reason for decriminalization of weed is FEDERALISM. That is to say, rights not specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution are assumed to be the authority of the states. PERIOD! The US is not supposed to be a homogeneous conglomeration of people who look, think and act alike. Our states are supposed to act as incubators of ideas. If Colorado wants to legalize weed, let them. If California, Oregon and Washington want to partner in a high-speed west-coast rail project; let them. If South Carolina wants to lower the age of consent to 16, let them. If Illinois wants to experiment with Charter Schools, let them. If Texas wants Open Constitutional Carry, let them. So long as none of the experiments violate the Constitution the sky is the limit.
The best thing is, we get a sneak-peak at whether some of these ideas would work. Sorta like shooting last in a golf foursome. Let Utah shank their tee shot into the drink. Let Montana slice into the woods. By the time I tee up, I’ll have an idea on what I want to do. Plus, I can always pick up my ball and go home. And have some weed.