Op Ed

Public Opposes Trump Crackdown on Pot

75% oppose Sessions’ proposal to prosecute pot users in states where it’s legal.

By - Jan 6th, 2018 11:45 am
Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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 Sessions recently rescinded an Obama administration policy that directed the federal government not to challenge state laws that allow people to use marijuana.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.

Jeff Sessions. Photo from the U.S. federal government.

Jeff Sessions. Photo from the U.S. federal government.

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.

Contrary to the “marijuana-is-a-gateway-drug” theory, a recent study from the Drug and Alcohol Dependence report shows opioid abuse and overdose deaths are lower in places that have legalized marijuana. Sessions said he was “astonished” to hear this evidence.

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.

23 thoughts on “Op Ed: Public Opposes Trump Crackdown on Pot”

  1. TransitRider says:

    Is the purpose of this change criminal prosecution or asset forfeiture?

    Marijuana stores are prohibited from using banks and are therefore all-cash businesses, with the money kept in safes. What is to prevent DEA from walking into these establishments on the day before payday and simply cleaning out the safe and walking away with the money? Especially since, I believe, that money would stay in control of DEA and would not go into the general US treasury.

    Weed stores would be unable to contest these seizures in federal court since that money is indisputably the result of an illegal business (under federal law).

  2. Little Boots says:

    Nobody wants the war against cannabis anymore. It is an unwinnable war we have already in fact, lost. All prohibition does is enrich black market purveyors at civil society’s expense. Congress must now do its job and act to end the federal prohibition of cannabis, right now! Call and write your representatives in Congress and tell them to support H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, sponsored by Representative Thomas Garrett, a Republican from Virginia. The bill, now with 15 cosponsors, would remove marijuana from Schedule 1 and eliminate federal penalties for anyone engaged in state-legal marijuana activity. All Congress has to do is pass it. You can also tell them to support Cory Booker’s legislation diing the same. The time to act is NOW!!
    Then, come November vote out all prohibitionists in Wisconsin, including Scott Walker.

  3. WashCoRepub says:

    If you have the opportunity to talk with a real pothead, I encourage you to do so. You will find that all they care about, all they want to talk about, indeed their entire existence, is built and focused around The Bud. It alienates and drives away non-using family, non-using friends, their careers, future hopes and dreams…. all of it. Their children are usually ashamed of their parents and they carry that with them.

    I wouldn’t wish that using lifestyle on anyone, and anyone who has borne witness to it, will understand.

    Those fighting against this substance and stronger substances, I salute you. Bring reality into your lives, both the ups and downs, and reject the false haze that these drugs offer.

  4. Terry says:

    @WashCoRepub, What a total sack of complete lies. Come on out to Seattle and talk to my doctor, lawyer, computer enginerer and successful business person/tech entrepreneur friends. They are all healthy, happy, hard working family people and are great members of the community. They have more money and much nicer houses and lives than you I can assure you. If your lies are true, how did they do it? Millions of Americans responsibly use cannabis everyday and YOU would never know it. Why. Because your stereotypes are myth. You need to wake up and educate yourself. Your tired old stereotypes and lies don’t work anymore. Nobody believes you. Cannabis prohibition is unAmerican. It tramples basic civil and human rights and the vast majority of Americans want to end prohibition federally, now!

  5. Little Boots says:

    Big Government loving Nanny State control freaks like WashCoRepub and other republicans, love to try and run everyone else’s life for them. Maybe they should try embracing individual liberty, personal responsibility and freedom for a change? Legalize it.

  6. Little Boots says:

    States’ Rights matter. Millions of Americans votes in legal states matter. States that have ended the failure of prohibition have laid the foundation for nullification of this old, unwanted and utterly failed policy. As Scott Walker has said, the power flows from the people, to the states and then to the feferal government. Not the other way around! Don’t republicans know that?
    It’s time to end cannabis prohibition.

  7. Troll says:

    The Democrats tied the alcohol and federal freeway subsidies to the age of 21. Pot should be tied to 21 years of age as well.

  8. Little Boots says:

    States’ Rights matter. Millions of Americans votes in legal states matter. States that have ended the failure of prohibition have laid the foundation for nullification of this old, unwanted and utterly failed policy. As Scott Walker has said, the power flows from the people, to the states and then to the federal government. Not the other way around! Don’t republicans know that?
    It’s time to end cannabis prohibition

  9. Little Boots says:

    All prohibition does is engender disrespect for the law, enrich black market purveyors, the private prison industry and law enforcement/police unions addicted to federal drug war grants and draconian civil forfeiture laws and create criminals out of otherwise normal, nonviolent citizens. This reefer madness needs to stop. The fact is, the prohibition of cannabis is far more deleterious to the individual and society than cannabis itself ever has been or ever will be.
    Let’s embrace the free market vs the black market. Let’s embrace the willl of the people and states’ rights.
    Let’s embrace individual liberty and responsibilty vs Big Government Nanny State intrusion into our personal lives.
    2018 is the time to end Prohibition once and for all.

  10. Donny says:

    Hey Washington County…quit worrying about pot and start worrying about all the hicks that are addicted to heroin in your area…the whole area is full of pill abusers and heroin addicts..and this guy talk about how pot ruins lives. I bet it does for some but in your area pot is the least of your problems. Your west bend Wal-Mart is full of cracked out zombies. You wish pot was the problem.

  11. TransitRider says:

    Troll writes “Pot should be tied to 21 years of age as well.”

    Already done. EVERY state that has legalized pot restricts it to adults 21 and older.

  12. Troll says:

    Thanks for the education.

  13. Terry says:

    Dump Walker and every other Big Government prohibitionist in 2018!!

  14. Terry says:

    @Donny, exactly but don’t forget all the alcoholics in Wisconsin either. It’s the most drunk state in the union costing the state millions annually. There’s nothing worse than rot gut liquor and pills, ugh, so disgusting and very deadly.

    Legalize cannabis! Dump Walker!

  15. will says:

    Yes, alcohol ruins more lives than any other drug. Now that Walker and the GOP has taken away local control, Wisconsin people truly have no say on who can run over your small town or family farm and pollute at will. Thanks corporation running Wisconsin into the ground. No rights for small family farms.

  16. Terry says:

    @Will, yes exactly! Up north here all tje farms are dying off, the tractors and young people sit idle, the land lies fallow, fertile but unplanted. Those who remain look at the fields, look at the tractors and all say the same damn thing, legalize cannabis so we can have good businesses, farms and jobs again! But Walker and republicans say no, so the land remains fallow, the tractors sit idle and the young people either leave the state or disappear into alcoholism, opioid abuse, poverty and hopelessness. We need a change and fast! Walker and other prohibitionist republicans have got to go in 2018!

  17. WashCoRepub says:

    Man, Terry , I’m really sad to hear you’re stuck living in what sounds like a craphole of a place. You should visit SE WI sometime, business is booming here… and with the Foxconn development starting, it’s probably only going to get more intense, with more opportunities for those that want to work. Hopefully though, in that sort of depressing environment, you’ve got lots of pot dealers around, so they can keep you blazed up and tuned out!

  18. PMD says:

    Washington County has a severe opioid crisis on its hands. The people there are certainly tuned out, but not from weed. What are you doing about the major problems in your backyard WashCoRepub?


  19. JPKMKE says:

    This looks like a temperance-style power grab to me…appealing to religious and conservative voters. I’m not a smoker and I have always discouraged people I care about from using marijuana, but it appears the legalization in Washington and Colorado has had no effect on traffic fatalities or teen marijuana use. The pro-prosecution messaging I’ve seen is blaming social issues on marijuana use which are more likely caused by mental illness, low IQ, unemployability and poverty. Unfortunate.

  20. PMD says:

    Washington County has an enormous opioid addiction problem. It is having a massively destructive impact on that county, which county officials made clear a couple months ago when they filed a lawsuit suing pharmaceutical companies. What are you doing about that WashCoRepub?

  21. Terry says:

    @WashCoRepug, it sucks for them. I am doing just fine, retired, happy, skiing all day, kayaking and fishing all summer, alone in the beautiful woods.
    Enjoy your violent, high tax hellhole!

  22. Terry says:

    @JPKMKE, You are correct. In my home state of WA, teen use rates are DOWN, traffic fatalities are down, schools and roads are funded and people enjoy their basic civil rights to do with their lives and bodies what they choose so long as that right doesn’t supercede someone else’s. It’s called “perspnal freedom and responsibility.” Republicans in Wisconsin should look into it!
    Nobody “smokes” anything anymore. Vaporizers, edibles and oils to be absorbed transdermally. Wisconsin is stuck in the republican Dark Ages…

  23. Gary says:

    I’m hoping the politicians here in the “Free State” of Maryland have a good, clearheaded case of Reefer Sanity and legalize cannabis for “adult use.”

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