Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the cannabis-friendly Cole Memo on Jan. 4, two state legislatures have voted to legalize marijuana, a third held fast to its legalization plans, and a Republican senator hinted he’d introduce a federal legalization measure.
It’s been a week since Jeff Sessions shook the marijuana world to its core, or tried to.
On Jan. 4, the attorney general followed up a year’s worth of open threats and obvious fighting words aimed at cannabis legalization — a plant which Sessions really, really does not like — with his boldest move yet: the revocation of the “Cole Memo,” the Obama-era policy missive that triggered a period of even more furious growth in already-booming legal marijuana.
Without the Cole Memo steering prosecutors away from state-legal cannabis and giving banks some assurance that their marijuana accounts would not be seized, surely the inexorable trend towards allowing medical cannabis or outright legalization would be halted.
The impact of Sessions’s crackdown, however, was immediate and decisive, but not in the way Sessions expected. The very next day, Vermont lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana, a feat followed up by legislators in New Hampshire, who on Monday approved a plan that would allow adults to possess small amounts of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home.
Two days after Sessions’s big day, commercial sales of marijuana began in San Francisco, where lawmakers all but dared him and other federal officers to do something about it, and other politicians converted the attorney general’s move into a talking point.
The war on marijuana was a colossal, costly, racial discriminatory failure. But now, Jeff Sessions and @realDonaldTrump want to roll back the clock to the days of mass incarceration and drug cartels. pic.twitter.com/OAC7VgKpLF
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 10, 2018
In New Jersey, the state that recently gave us Chris Christie, incoming Governor Phil Murphy assured voters that his plan to legalize marijuana within 100 days was still on.
In Congress, Republican Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, a key collaborator in the passage of Donald Trump’s tax bill, fumed and vowed to block passage of judicial nominees unless Sessions relented — and if he didn’t, that it might be the impetus necessary for a “legislative solution,” Senate-speak for a federal legalization bill.
Elsewhere, the attorney general was branded a “hypocrite” and a traitor to conservative values. Conservatives bashed him, liberals blasted him, libertarians wondered what got into him.
.@mattgaetz on AG Sessions’ marijuana policy change: “It’s just incredibly heartless and mean to disrupt the delivery of medicine to people who need it”@weartv #C2C pic.twitter.com/QpzpWWKyqx
— C2C Sinclair (@SBGC2C) January 10, 2018
Sessions achieved the unthinkable: In these divisive partisan times, the attorney general has found a way to unite Americans behind a common cause. In other words, Sessions is failing, in spectacular fashion. Instead of blocking marijuana legalization in its tracks, he appears to have given it a boost.
This past Thursday may well turn out to be a pivotal moment in the marijuana industry’s evolution as a political force: https://t.co/uuBtPpXTAQ
— POLITICO Magazine (@POLITICOMag) January 10, 2018
Such a backlash was predictable. Indeed, it was predicted. “This is an open-and-shut issue for liberals, for libertarians, for young people, even for a lot of conservatives and Trump voters,” Robby Soave, an associate editor at libertarian Reason magazine, told Vox. “They may not all like weed, but they are coming around to the position that banning it isn’t worth the effort, and in any case, this should be up to the states.”
In the new Trump White House tell-all, “The Fire and the Fury,” writer Michael Wolff gave more voice to an earlier theory: The presidency was never a job Donald Trump wanted in the first place, and moves like decreasing his workday to seven hours is a way to wiggle out of it.
Could Sessions, humiliated several times by the big boss (after which he tried but failed to resign), be attempting a similar exit — a sort of suicide-by-cannabis?
When Trump ran for President he said “I really believe we should leave marijuana up to the states.” He was right, but his attorney general, by rescinding the Cole Memorandum will cause a 1920’s style prohibition on marijuana. No one except Jeff Sessions likes this idea.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 10, 2018
Revoking the Cole Memo breaks a Trump campaign promise. It also makes the president look bad and unpopular, to little appreciable benefit. Trump doesn’t care about the former — and gives thought to else beyond the latter. Marijuana, Jeff Sessions’s bête noir, may yet prove to be his undoing.
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