At the start of 2018, California became the latest state to legalize the recreational use and possession of marijuana. Soon thereafter, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch advocate for states’ rights, except as it pertains to marijuana, announced that he was authorizing U.S. attorneys to resume enforcement of anti-marijuana federal criminal laws, including medical marijuana.

The enforcement of these laws had been suspended by President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice.

Conservative Republican U.S. Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado responded that during Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearings, both Sessions and President Donald Trump “assured” him that reversal of the relaxed marijuana enforcement policies wouldn’t be a focus of a Trump presidency. Then candidate Trump also stated that criminalization versus legalization of marijuana was a states’ rights issue.

Sen. Gardner’s concerns were legitimate since Sessions’ hard-line views on marijuana were already well known. According to Sessions, marijuana is only slightly less dangerous than heroin despite all of the scientific evidence to the contrary. According to Sessions, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” However, “fine people” can be found among neo-Nazis marching, carrying tiki torches and espousing racist views according to his boss, President Trump.

In response to Sessions’ announcement, a visibly upset Gardner vowed that he would try and block all Justice Department nominees until the renewed federal marijuana crackdown was rescinded. Another Republican U.S. Senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, which has also legalized marijuana, called Sessions’ announcement “regrettable and disruptive.”

Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, a Republican and strong Trump supporter, stated that Sessions’ announcement would deny relief to cancer patients, especially children, and was “heartless and cold, and shows his desire to pursue an antiquated, disproven dogma instead of the will of the American people.”

The legal sale of marijuana in Colorado and other states has created over 100,000 jobs, deprived billions of dollars to criminal cartels, who would’ve met the demand for marijuana, and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes that help finance schools and anti-opiate treatment programs, a real drug crisis that doesn’t seem to faze Attorney General Sessions.

More federal marijuana arrests and prosecutions means more convicted felons, which are disproportionately minorities, i.e., African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. More convicted felons means the need for more prisons. More prisons means the need for more privately run prison facilities.

Since the appointment of Sessions, a strong backer of privately run prison facilities, the stock value of companies like GEO and CoreCivic, operators of private prisons, has tripled, and according to German news magazine Der Spiegel, investment banks are recommending clients buy shares in these companies because 2018 promises to be a great year due to an expected increase in demand for prison space.

Simultaneously reversing another Obama policy, increasing corporate profits, and the ever increasing incarceration and political disfranchisement of minorities, is a win-win-win situation for men like Trump and Sessions. For the overwhelming majority of Americans who support decriminalization of marijuana use and possession, it could soon all go up in smoke.

Roberto Torres is an attorney at law in Galveston and writes columns from a progressive perspective.

(13) comments

Mark Stevens

Another great column, Roberto. Thanks!!
Private Prisons are nothing new, or good. Those with time should get a copy of Robert Hughes "The Fatal Shore", about sending convicts to Australia in the 1700's. The second chapter, "A horse foaled by an acorn" [Slang for the gallows] Describes British criminal laws and practice in that age. Private prisons were the horrible norm. Jailers would charge inmates for food, drink [gin] and for the privilege of having chains removed. It was a horrible system, and Jeff Sessions would like nothing more to bring it back...and cash in.--Mark W. Stevens

Doyle Beard

Nothing said.

Carlos Ponce

Can a non-elected government official override a Congressional Law signed by the President of the United States? No. Only Congress can rescind it's own laws with presidential consent or the courts may rule it unconstitutional. So what happened when former deputy attorney general, Jim Cole issued the "Cole Memo" in 2013? "In what became colloquially known as the 'Cole memo,' the department recognized that the drug was still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act but gave federal prosecutors permission to focus their resources elsewhere, so long as the states didn't threaten other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of the drug to minors and targeting cartels."
http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/04/politics/jeff-sessions-cole-memo/index.html
If you want to change the laws on the books (The Controlled Substances Act-signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970), CONGRESS NEEDS TO DO IT. That's the letter of the law.
So Jeff Sessions is enforcing the law. The brouhaha over rescinding a memo from the Obama administration is nothing but political grandstanding. Hating anything and everything from the Trump administration is the current Liberal modus operandi. Much ado about nothing- that should be the title of Roberto's column.

Jarvis Buckley

Very well explained Carlos.

PD Hyatt

What is seems that Roberto and other progressives like him want to do is to allow all drugs to be legalized and then take away our rights to protect ourselves from the drug addicts....
I for one was surprised that Obama who like to smoke the illegal weed didn't sign and EO that would have legalized it.... After all he did sign a few that went against the rule of the law that Congress had made into laws....

Diane Turski

Elections have consequences! Congress should stop supporting Nixon's failed war on drugs! It is long past time for Congress to legalize marijuana and end the charade that Sessions is continuing to support! Vote for candidates in 2018 who will exercise common sense in legislating laws that reflect the will of the people, not the special interest cronies! This past year of special interest lobbyists writing laws to benefit themselves has proven to me that we desperately need a brand new Congress!

Doyle Beard

And

Jarvis Buckley

Diane much of what you say is true.
Unfortunately the Democrats are the party of no, so they have no leverage.

Jarvis Buckley

We need articles written with more civility. Also I think our comments need to be toned down. I believe it would create more participation & a
wider view of opinions. Just my thoughts ......

Steve Fouga

[thumbup] What Jarvis said...

David Doe

I disagree with Sessions. It would be nice if Carlos would explain that the President doesn't write the Laws, Congress does. I think Sessions is running on borrowed time.

Carlos Ponce

Don't know why you disagree with Sessions. He's just enforcing the laws as written by Congress. He's just doing his job. It was Obama's people who ignored the laws but that was typical of his administration.

Robert Braeking

Trump is trying to get congress to act. The action of the Obama administration was illegal without congressional action. That being said, I think that it is in the best interest of the United States, the prison system, and States rights to remove marijuana from the Federal controlled substances list. This is a gateway drug to removing ALL drugs from the controlled substances list.

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