President Elect Donald Trump’s top pick for Attorney General is a hardliner against marijuana and may put state legalization and decriminalization measures in serious jeopardy if he comes to office.
The good news on November 8 for anti-drug war, pro-marijuana legalization people was that they won a few good battles in this year’s election (four new states voted in marijuana legalization and another four approved of new medical marijuana programs on November 8). The bad news was that they may have lost the war, at least for now. American voters made another decision you might have heard about earlier this month, namely the election of Donald J. Trump to be our nation’s 45th president.
Trump announced last week that he intends to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general of the United States, as reported by The Washington Post. Sessions has been an outspoken opponent of marijuana leniency and proponent of the Reagan administration’s drug war strategies which led to the incarceration of millions of people. He has called cannabis “a real danger” and criticized Obama’s permissive stance on state marijuana laws, saying, “we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized…”
Sessions has also praised Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program and called Obama’s “lax treatment” of marijuana one of the president’s “great failures.” Just to make sure you get that he isn’t playing, he also joked back in 1986 that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.” This comment and other remarks that inferred a casual racism cost Sessions a federal district court judge appointment under Reagan, but allows him fit in well with Trump’s proposed top brass including a alt-right hate monger for chief strategist and a climate change denier for heading up the Environmental Protection Agency.
The AG pick “is by far the single most outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization in the U.S. Senate,” Kevin Sabet, of anti-cannabis propaganda group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told the Washington Post in an email. Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance called Sessions “a drug war dinosaur” and added that “Those who counted on Donald Trump’s reassurance that marijuana reforms ‘should be a state issue’ will be sorely disappointed.”
An anti-cannabis voice at the top of the Justice Department could be potentially devastating to progress made in the last several years. Marijuana is still a controlled substance at a federal level, which means that federal agencies like the DEA can choose not to honor state legalization basically anytime they want to. The Obama administration has allowed states the right to choose their stance on marijuana, but the next administration might not, especially if their Attorney General is a guy who said that marijuana “is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about . . . good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
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