Public Opposes Trump Crackdown on Pot
75% oppose Sessions’ proposal to prosecute pot users in states where it’s legal.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Sessions recently rescinded an Obama administration policy that directed the federal government not to challenge state laws that allow people to use marijuana. Sessions’ move was one of big government, anti-state sovereignty and it makes no sense.
The previous policy of the Obama administration on this issue made sense. It did not waste enormous taxpayer dollars and resources by having the federal government go after non-violent marijuana users not involved in gangs or cartels.
But Sessions reversed that policy this week. In May, Sessions asked Congress to get rid of a law that has protected medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution in those states that allowed such use.
The public, by a long shot, is not with Sessions. According to Quinnipiac polls, nearly 75 percent of voters are against the federal government prosecuting people for marijuana in states that have legalized it. Additionally, 95 percent of voters support medical marijuana and 60 percent of voters support full legalization. A 2016 Marquette University Law School poll found 59 percent of Wisconsinites support full marijuana legalization.
In every state where marijuana has been legalized for recreational purposes, local voters at their respective ballot boxes overwhelmingly supported the move. Voters in the states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington have all supported legalization.
Sessions’ move sends a message to federal officials throughout the country that prosecuting people under federal law for using marijuana in states that have legalized marijuana is no problem. In legalization states like Colorado, for example, Sessions essentially decreed that citizens may well need to worry that the massive arm of the federal government could come crashing down on them; their local laws be damned.
According to USA TODAY, senior Justice Department officials said there is “no de-facto safe haven” any longer for marijuana. While Sessions’ memo does not outline specific policy changes in terms of whether the feds will now go after people in legalization states, it certainly encourages federal prosecutors to do so.
In California, the new market for marijuana is expected to generate up to $5.1 billion in 2019. The tax revenue generated so far has been delegated to worthy endeavors, such as college scholarships, drug treatment programs and schools
President Donald Trump, when asked about marijuana legalization on the campaign trail, said the issue would be left up to the states. In 2016, Trump said: “I think it’s up to the states. I am a states person. I think it should be up to the states. Absolutely.”
Perhaps Trump realized we spend way too much money on marijuana enforcement. Enforcing marijuana possession laws alone costs almost $5 billion annually. Between 2001 and 2010, nearly 90 percent of the more than 8 million marijuana arrests in the United States were for simple possession of marijuana. In 2012, FBI statistics showed there were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession and only 256,000 for “cocaine, heroin, and their derivatives.”
Although marijuana use is not without negative side effects and societal costs, the floodgates have not opened to a substantial increase in marijuana use or crime in states where it has been legalized.
But a study published by the Journal of School Health concluded the gateway theory is associated with alcohol, rather than marijuana use. People who use harder drugs are likely to do so because of far more powerful influencing factors, such as their social environment, negative peer groups, mental illness and poverty.
Since Sessions believes “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he apparently considers the overwhelming majority of Americans to not be “good people.” It would be interesting to know what Sessions thinks about Paul McCartney, Michael Phelps, Rush Limbaugh, LeBron James, Bill Gates, Clarence Thomas or Oprah Winfrey — all people who have admitted to marijuana use in their lives.
As someone who has never smoked marijuana or used any illegal drug, I don’t have a dog in this fight as far as legalization goes. In fact, from a purely economic standpoint, I should be for what Sessions is doing because more marijuana prosecutions would mean more money for criminal defense lawyers. But I am not for it. I am also a taxpayer and I care about where our resources are spent and that those resources are spent wisely.
Common sense and reason must prevail in the marijuana debate. And opening the door to allow the federal government to prosecute more citizens in states where marijuana has been legalized by overwhelming majorities of the people makes no sense.
This op ed was originally published by the Sheboygan Press.
Casey Hoff is a criminal defense attorney based in Sheboygan.
More about the Legalizing of Marijuana
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- Bill Would Decriminalize Pot Possession - Laurel White - Oct 30th, 2019
- Senator Larson Continues to Support Legalization and Decriminalization of Marijuana - State Sen. Chris Larson - Oct 30th, 2019
- Rep. Stubbs, Lt. Gov. Barnes Announce Legislation Decriminalizing Marijuana - State Rep. Shelia Stubbs - Oct 30th, 2019
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- Michigan Struggles With Legal Pot - Rachelle Wilson - Jun 21st, 2019
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- Op Ed: Public Opposes Trump Crackdown on Pot - Casey Hoff - Jan 6th, 2018
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