Will the Trump Administration Launch a Civil War Over Legal Weed?
One of blue America’s few consolations on the morning of November 9 was that liberals in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and (probably) Maine had gained the right to treat their Trump anxiety with self-prescribed marijuana.
Including those four referenda, the legalization of recreational marijuana has now been approved by eight states and the District of Columbia. Once legalization is implemented in all of them, 20 percent of Americans will live in a place where over-the-counter cannabis is legal on the local level.
But 100 percent of Americans still live in a place where marijuana is illegal on the federal level — a fact that’s attained heightened relevance following Donald Trump’s revelation of his pick for attorney general.
Alabama senator Jeff Sessions hates marijuana almost as much as he loves his Confederate heritage: The former prosecutor once “joked” to an African-American colleague that he was fine with the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot.”
Just as that dig at cannabis is, far and away, the least alarming thing about that quote, so Sessions’s racism, more broadly, is far more concerning than his passion for the drug war. (These passions aren’t necessarily distinct — Sessions is the Senate’s leading opponent of ending mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes, a practice that disproportionately harms of African-Americans.)
Nonetheless, as leader of the Justice Department, Sessions would have the power to force 420-friendly states into compliance with federal law, thereby increasing the number of Americans who can be caged for indulging in a substance less dangerous than alcohol.
In fact, since marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance — a distinction that marks a drug as having “no accepted medical use” — Sessions could also crack down on the 28 states that have legalized cannabis for certain medical conditions.
During his campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to leave the question of marijuana prohibition “to the states.” And any federal crackdown would likely inspire heavy backlash, both from “green state” voters and from the burgeoning legal mairjuana industry.
“While the choice certainly isn’t good news for marijuana reform,” Tom Angell, chairman of pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said in a statement, “I’m still hopeful the new administration will realize that any crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems they don’t need and will use lots of political capital they’d be better off spending on issues the new president cares a lot more about.”
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