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vowed that he would try and block all Justice Department nominees until the renewed federal marijuana crackdown was rescinded.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.