Another voice just joined the chorus of Congressional representatives who are condemning Attorney General Jeff Sessions for reversing the Obama-era policy of not enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have decriminalized the substance.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a statement today forcefully opposing Sessions’ move to revert to a regressive drug policy that has led to America now having the largest incarceration rate of any country in the world, according to a report on The Hill.
“Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin,” Sanders said in a statement.
“Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years,” he added.
Sessions announced today that he is rescinding the Cole memo, a provision written during the Obama administration by then Deputy Attorney General James Cole, that required federal prosecutors to deprioritize marijuana cases in states that have legalized medical or recreational use of the plant.
Sanders joins other Senators opposed to Sessions decision, including Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) who have co-sponsored a bill ending federal prohibitions on the drug, and Cory Gardner (R-CO) who has vowed to block the confirmation of all Justice Department nominees after Sessions promised him prior to his confirmation hearings that he would not taKe action against states that have passed legalization bills.
The Attorney General rescinded the Cole memo despite his promises to Gardner, who as a Republican Senator in a state with a burgeoning marijuana industry, has much political capital to lose if businesses legal under state law suddenly start getting raided by federal agents and shut down. The state of Colorado alone has earned over half a billion dollars in tax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis since legalization and the loss of that revenue would be a major blow to the state’s finances.
Sessions has hedged his bets somewhat by stating that the new policy will allow individual U. S. attorneys to make the decisions over which marijuana related cases they wish to bring, but the uncertainty that the new regulatory environment brings to a rapidly-growing industry seems sure to have a chilling effect on its growth rates and on the overall economy, the opposite of typical Republican pro-growth, business-friendly policies.
With Sessions seemingly a throwback to the days of the ineffective drug wars of the Nixon and Reagan eras, his move to stop the forward motion of the reform of cannabis laws must be ultimately be stopped by the passage of new federal drugs laws that remove marijuana from the list of scheduled, prohibited substances with no medical value. Cannabis’ value as medicine is no longer under any doubt with numerous studies proving that its effectiveness in preventing seizures and a number of other maladies.
Hopefully, Senators Booker and Wyden can get their bill through committee and put to a vote in the Senate shortly and the needless incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people for possession of a substance no more harmful than alcohol can cease.
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