The U.S. Congress is the real powerhouse refusing to stop federal prohibition. The Attorney General is just enforcing the outdated laws placed before him.
Ever since Jeff Sessions was rumored to become President Trump’s pick to serve as Attorney General of the United States back in November 2016, the cannabis advocacy community has been fixated on how the former Alabama Senator is public enemy number one in the realm of cannabis reform. But while it is true that Sessions is no friend to marijuana, legal or otherwise, he is not the true nemesis to reasonable cannabis policy — Congress is.
The cannabis industry seems to have forgotten that Congress is king, and it is has allowed Attorney General Sessions to wage his psychological war on legal marijuana. The federal lawmakers, who are supposed to be looking after the interests of the people, have had every opportunity to approve legislation that would bring marijuana prohibition to a screeching halt. But the issue continues to be ignored by most who sit on Capitol Hill. With the exception of Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Earl Blumenauer and a handful of others, most lawmakers are still not ready to get onboard with legalization.
It was once believed that Republican domination stood in the way of progress. But we now know that Democratic forces are sandbagging it, as well. Even representatives from legal states are refusing to stand up for the concept of nationwide legalization. Earlier this year, Roll Call reported that a number of Democratic senators often dodge questions about cannabis and frequently say that it should be “up to the voter” or “state should be allowed to do what they want.” Nationwide reform doesn’t appear to be on many representatives’ priority list.
Because of this attitude in Congress, there exists a gaping black hole with respect to state and federal pot policy. It is the one snag that gives federal officials like Attorney General Sessions the authority to even utter the words, “Marijuana is illegal in the United States—even in Colorado, California, and everywhere else in America.”
Last year, during his confirmation hearing, Sessions fired back at federal lawmakers who questioned his anti-marijuana stance. Many of these folks expressed concern that Sessions would not play nice with the states that have legalized the leaf for recreational purposes. But Sessions gave it to them straight. “If that’s something [that] is not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule,” he said.
“It is not so much the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce,” he added. “We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able.”
But Congress has made no real attempt to change the laws surrounding marijuana. Not even as more than 60 percent of the population now believes that weed should be taxed and regulated the same as alcohol and tobacco. Medical marijuana is even more popular with the public. Around 90 percent of voters think it is ridiculous that patients cannot relish in the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the risk of jail. Despite the fact that there are now 30 states with medical marijuana programs on the books, Congress still has not taken decisive action to declare a new national standard.
Yet the cannabis industry continues to drone on about Sessions and his recent decision to reverse the Obama-era memo designed to allow states to experiment with legal weed without federal interference. But the piece of paper known as the Cole Memo was never a binding contract.
Some say Sessions’ attitude so far in 2018 could help drag marijuana out of the trenches of prohibition a little faster. But that seems unlikely. The Marijuana Justice Act, which was introduced last year by Senator Cory Booker and aims to legalize marijuana nationwide, still only has two co-sponsors. A companion measure filed earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives has twenty-four. Even combined, there simply isn’t enough traction in the federal government to get so much as a hearing.
Despite what the pundits of the cannabis scene would have you believe, Congress is only barely progressing on the issue. Marijuana still has a long way to go.
Perhaps it is time to forget about Jeff Sessions and the crackdown that will never come and start applying pressure to our elected officials. It is imperative that we change the country’s pot law at the federal level because as long as marijuana remains a Schedule I banned substance, the buzzards of uncertainly will continue to circle an industry predicted to employ several hundred thousand workers and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue.
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