A number of the tantrums thrown by Trump and his Congressional enablers have focused on imaginary conspiracies at the Department of Justice–especially the FBI. They accuse a so-called “deep state” of waging a “bogus” Russia “witch hunt.”
It’s a hard sell, because it is so obviously defensive horseshit. Besides, any “deep state” worth having would take on Jeff Sessions, who is arguably an obscenity with no redeeming social value.
Sessions’ racist past had been amply documented prior to his appointment (back when the GOP cared about such things, it cost him a federal judgeship). He has been enthusiastic about Trump’s hard line on immigration; re-instituted widely criticized asset forfeiture laws; threatened to withhold criminal justice funds from Sanctuary cities; refused to allow DOJ to engage in oversight of police departments –even those with which it has current consent decrees; and rolled back everything from voting rights enforcement to protections for transgender citizens.
Now he’s threatening to reverse Eric Holder’s policy of respecting state-level prerogatives when it comes to marijuana policy. Per the Brookings Institution:
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions opted to end a more than four-year-old policy that granted a safe haven for state-legal marijuana companies (and consumers) to engage in the cultivation, processing, sale, possession, and use of cannabis under tightly regulated conditions. This policy, known as the Cole Memo, was initially enacted during the Obama administration, in response to Colorado and Washington legalizing adult-use cannabis in 2012. The Cole Memo effectively told federal prosecutors not to bring cannabis-related cases in states that have legalized if and only if companies and consumers abide by a state-provided regulatory system and do not engage in other bad acts like engaging with drug cartels or selling to children.
Has the policy been perfect? No. Of course, no policy is. However, the Cole Memo did provide a system by which cannabis was no longer sold only by unregulated dealers and/or drug cartels. It provided safeguards and promoted the testing of products. It put states on notice to develop robust regulatory systems. It allowed an industry to move out of the shadows and into a system that taxed and regulated its products.
The Brookings analysis illustrates the utter stupidity of this decision. Ending these safeguards puts people at risk for adulterated product and increases ease of access for underage users. Studies show that legal access to marijuana decreases both underage use and opiod addiction. (Not that evidence has ever been a big part of this argument; our intrepid drug warriors have long ignored overwhelming data showing that weed is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.)
Sessions’ decision is a windfall for drug dealers (as the Brookings’ report notes, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions will find a lot of opponents to his decision today. But hey, at least he’ll have the support of drug dealers.”) And it will be costly for taxpayers.
Chasing after the thousands of legal marijuana growers, processers, and dispensaries and the tens of thousands of people they employ will cost DEA significant amounts of federal tax dollars. Add to that the costs US Attorneys will incur prosecuting those individuals and representing the government on appeals.
Fortunately for Democrats running in 2018, this isn’t just stupid policy, it is terrible politics. As Daily Kos explained:
If Democrats are smart, they will finally nationalize the pot issue, and its impact could spread through the entire map. The more young voters turn out, the bigger the Democratic landslide will be. And a great step toward making that happen would be full-throated Democratic support for full legalization at the federal level. Heck, leave it up to the states to decide for themselves! But the feds need to get out of the business of banning marijuana. And as far as political calculations go, there is little downside to Democrats. The public supports recreational legalization by 2-1 margins, and medicinal legalization by 9-1 margins or even higher.
In the real world–the one that no one in this administration inhabits– insisting that marijuana is illegal won’t stop its production and distribution. It will keep states from imposing sensible regulations that keep it safe and out of the hands of minors, and it will prevent states from generating substantial funds by taxing it.
Where’s that “deep state” when you need it?