By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
The Trump Administration continues to put policies in place that go against national consensus on critical issues and is conducting a foreign policy that isolates the United States from the rest of the world.
With each of these actions, the spring that will create the boomerang of transformation gets pressed further. This week, we focus on three areas: allowing federal prosecution of marijuana offenses where states have made marijuana legal, allowing off shore oil exploration throughout US coastal areas, and escalating regime change efforts in Iran. Each of these actions creates the potential for a larger boomerang in favor of economic, racial and environmental justice and peace if we organize around them.
Is Going Backward on Marijuana Leading to a Sprint Forward?
The United States was beginning to put in place laws and policies for marijuana in the post-prohibition era. The unraveling of the war on marijuana began in 1996 with passage of Proposition 215 in California, which allows medical use of marijuana. Since then, states have been putting in place both medical marijuana laws and legal systems for adult use.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions' reversal of federal marijuana enforcement policy and giving federal prosecutors a green light to prosecute people in states where marijuana is legal will slow or stop these developments and, at their worst, will fuel the wasteful and destructive war on marijuana.
Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted laws that allow the medical use of marijuana. Marijuana is legal and regulated for adults in eight states, and adult possession and limited home cultivation are legal in the District of Columbia. Sessions' action comes just three days after California implemented legal marijuana, while Maryland was implementing its medical marijuana law, when Ohio approved 12 large marijuana cultivation sites and Massachusetts is putting in place their legal marijuana system. On the same day as Sessions' reversal, the Vermont House voted to make marijuana legal for adults. The bill is likely to pass the senate and be signed by the governor.
Sessions' action is out-of-step with the US public where 64 percent now support legal marijuana, including a majority of Republicans. On medical marijuana, over 80 percent support legalizing it for medical use. This national consensus on marijuana law reform is likely to grow in response to Sessions' actions.
The Cole Memo, issued by the Department of Justice during the Obama presidency, allowed these state laws to take effect. The federal government not prosecuting in legal states resulted in the development of a thriving marijuana industry that includes farmers and retailers, creating thousands of jobs. This $7 billion a year industry was expected to grow significantly with California's law taking effect in 2018, along with other states, e.g., Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio. The marijuana sector of the economy will grow to more than $20 billion in coming years if the federal government does not block the will of voters.
The reaction will be swift as this decision is bad politics and bad economics. The backlash began immediately in Congress. Likely 2020 Democratic presidential contenders rushed to beat one another in criticizing the Trump administration's backward action on marijuana. Not a single legislator put out a statement in support of Sessions' steps on marijuana law reform. He is already isolated on the issue.
Advocates for legal marijuana are beginning to recognize that Sessions' retrograde marijuana policy is an opportunity for advancement of legalization on the federal level. Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority wrote, "The development generated immediate and intense pushback from federal and state officials, from both sides of the aisle. And it wasn't just the usual suspects of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus chiming in. Democratic and Republican House and Senate members who almost never talk about marijuana, except when asked about it, proactively released statements pushing back against Sessions." He points to Republican Rod Blum of Iowa, a state that has not reformed its laws, co-sponsoring a federal reform bill.