By Nathan Barton
The cries are loud. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recinded the Obummer-issued memo telling the nation’s federal prosecutors to leave off on pursuing cannabis pushers and users in the growing number of states that have legalized medical and/or recreational cannabis. This just days after the People’s Republic of California legalized the stuff for anyone to use.
(I probably should be putting “legalized” in quotes. The MJ market is about as free in all these states as, say, the trash collecting business was in NYC under the mob, or tobacco is in NYC and dozens of other places. Regulations, prohibitions, insane taxes, fees, and everything else actually make “legal” cannabis more expensive than the black market stuff some places. While making obscene profits for governments – often more than for the businesses. Like with motor fuels. And liquor. But that’s another story.)
As numerous squawks attest, it isn’t just pot-smoking snowflakes and Tranzi politicians, to say nothing of traditional hippies, potheads, and the like that are screeching. A fair number of “conservative” GOP types publicly condemned Sessions (and Trump) for doing this, and breaking promises. (Glen Beck’s crew attacked, rather wittily (but wrongly) Cory Gardner, Colorado’s very conservative Senator. The most unlikely of potheads, but a pretty staunch advocate (as GOP types in power go) for state’s rights, and someone who can count votes.)
Although you’d think the DOJ and all the federal War on Some Drugs thugs are already moving down the streets of Colorado, Washington, California, and elsewhere, busting in the doors and loading the black mariahs with nauseated vets, pain-filled grannies, aging hippies, and flush green-cross entrepeneurs (to listen to the cries of outrage), it isn’t happening.
In fact, in repealing the Cole Memo, Sessions did NOT order the nation’s federal district attorneys (or the alphabet agencies) to start enforcement. Rather, he left it up to their individual judgment to decide whether to do so. This is being condemned, even by organizations like LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) as well as the ACLU. They are worried that the political thugs act on whim and so create a mishmash of enforcement standards and risks across the country.
But herein lies the explanation of this bizarre action by Sessions – an action which just had to be known to Trump beforehand. Indeed, I can imagine that Trump didn’t just know about it, but may have told Sessions to do it.
As Sessions pointed out in his memo, and whatever his personal beliefs and ideas in the matter (as a well known Drug Warrior), it is CONGRESS that has made and kept cannabis (of all types, psychoactive or not) illegal. It is the law, and he is supposed to enforce it. (A distinction, admittedly, that few Attorneys General, Dem or GOP, have seemed to understand, especially not for the last decade.)
But for years, even federal recognition of medical and industrial use of marijuana and hemp has been stalled in Congress, despite bipartisan efforts and huge lobbying by libertarian and other groups – not all dope-smoking potheads, either. Even groups like the American Legion.
But this week not a SINGLE member of Congress has spoken up (at least not out loud) to support Sessions. And various pro-cannabis-business groups have really started to come together to support and protect the multi-billion-dollar industry (growing in leaps and bounds).
Nah, you don’t suppose… Everyone knows and says what a stupid, bigoted, hateful, incompetent, ignorant, egotistical, mind-warped, dangerous kook lives in the White House these days. Totally unable to do anything except spontaneously blurt out whatever insults and nasty names he can.
Surely he could not have laid out a wicked little plan to manipulate Congress and the public opinion and the economy. Certainly not for pot!?!
I think that the signs are there. Not just Sessions but dozens of Senators and Congresscritturs and industry and business and lobbying groups are playing a role. Intentionally in on the scam? Or simply predictable enough to be counted on to react properly to the right stimuli applied in the right place at the right time? I suspect that at least some of them (like LEAP) are smart and canny enough to play a game.
Because cannabis legalization is NOT about moral or public health issues. Except for the morality of allowing free people to make their own choices. And the health issue of killing people or putting them behind bars for stupid reasons, leaving families and businesses in poverty and despair.
Trump is, after all, a businessman. He’s all about money, doing business. The art of the deal. And he’s known for decades that the War on Some Drugs – and especially on marijuana – has been seriously hurting the economy. Not just in the insane expenditures to fight the War, including the enforcement, prosecution, and punishment of offenders. Not just the medical costs of refusing to research, test, and use natural medicines. But in driving the entire business underground and the cost of competition without law. In which players are forbidden from using relatively peaceful means to resolve their disputes. And in the environmental impact on neighbors, “wilderness” and park areas, the borders, small towns, and many other places.
I don’t suppose he is “smart enough” to understand the social damage: the militarization of local and state police forces ramped up by the War on Some Drugs, and the growing corruption and scarring of police, making them more and more brutal and ever more an occupying force. Oh, no, The Donald is too stupid to see the negative impact on the economy and business and society from that.
He is, of course, too stupid to do anything but make deals that provide money and power to him, his family, his buddies in business, and… just maybe…
Mama’s Note: Not a chance, that I can see. Again, it’s all about power and control of other people’s lives and property. As long as most people continue to believe that the government, at any level, has legitimate authority to control them… they will continue to be controlled… as they have been for a very long time.
Pingback: The priorities of government | The Price of Liberty
Usually, the priority of government (and government employees including politicians) goes something like this:
1. Maximize their agency/government control of people and business.
2. Maximize the employment/income security of the government employees.
3. Maximize their revenues (taxes, fees, grants from other governments, etc.).
In the legalization of medical (and now recreational) cannabis, this has been at work all along. For decades, local government maximized all three by going along with the Feds, but then found that revenue from taxes would not just replace but exceed revenue from “War on Drugs” grants and forfeiture. Or so it seems.
But also we need to keep in mind that government, and government employees as such, are often very stupid and do not understand the consequences of their decisions. And that once in a while, by sheer accident, they have to do something (at least pretend to do something) that violates their priorities.
An example I frequently use is one in which a local (city) government cut off its nose to spite its face by refusing to issue an occupancy permit to a newly rebuilt Burger King store for several months while the store jumped through convoluted bureaucratic hoops to get an alley vacated so that they had two more parking spaces (of the 60 or so they were required). The delay in reopening meant that the store was closed during a major tourist event, and the city probably lost $20K in sales tax revenues as a result. (People went to fast-food places outside their jurisdiction.) The bureaucrafts were exercising their control over the business. But the game did not INCREASE their power over the business (or increase their personal security) – so they were stupid in not understanding they should have been maximizing revenue by granting a temporary waiver for the few weeks.
In the case of marijuana, until the state (and local) governments could find a way to preserve (or increase) their control and security while increasing their revenue, they totally prohibited sale and use. And being stupid, it took time for the governments to wake up to the fact that by applying the same regulatory scheme to pot and medical cannabis as they have for a century to tobacco and alcohol (and medicine), they could increase all three priorities.
I’m sure that happens more than we know, Nathan. And sometimes it backfires seriously for the “state.” I’m hoping that this cannabis deal is one of the big backfires. Obviously, the real backfire comes when more and more people simply ignore the state and refuse to be part of that game. Right now it seems to be mostly the rich “yuppies” and others with serious disposable means who are buying this overpriced, over regulated stuff from the “allowed” vendors. Everyone else who wants it pretty much continues to get it where they can, black market or gray. If you don’t have wealth or connections, you just do without.
The Oregon Federal Prosecutor is basically signaling that nothing will change. Yes, there’s too much revenue to be gleaned when the tax is right at 25%. To wit: yesterday I heard that of all (I believe the number is 129) the MJ dispensaries licensed in the state, a staggering total of 0 was vetted by the agency responsible. Here’s your license, now get out there and generate revenue for the State.
No government ever turned loose of a cash cow willingly. I don’t know what you mean by “vetted” here, but the more the “agency” leaves the merchants alone, the better.