The mainstream media has taken time out from its busy schedule of compulsively re-writing Donald Trump’s obituary to report that Trump’s appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General has left the marijuana industry — recreational, medical and illegal — quivering in its boots.
Chances are the mainstream media is wrong about the quivering part. People who go into the marijuana business don’t scare easily. But if they aren’t concerned, they haven’t been paying attention.
Sessions is one of the worst marijuana prohibitionists in the Congress. He has been virulently anti-pot throughout his public career, right up to last April when during a Senate hearing on drugs he unburdened himself of the following remarks about marijuana legalization:
“[W]e need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”
He went on to say that he thought one of Obama’s “great failures” is his “lax treatment” of marijuana in his public comments. “It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No.’”
And lawmakers and other government officials needed to foster “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it. It is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he said.
So does this mean that Sessions is going to go after the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana and the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana use?
And does it mean that Trump, by appointing Sessions, is signaling that he wants to resume the federal government’s war on ganja?
Trying to predict what Trump really wants or intends to do is a risky business. The only certainty here is that Sessions works for Trump, and Trump will have the final say on what his administration will do about marijuana.
My guess is that Trump will not set off a new war on pot, and he will keep Sessions from starting one on his own, as well.
•Trump has already said he thinks marijuana legalization should be “a state issue, state-by-state.” Why should he abandon a stand that helped get him elected?
•Trump knows how to read polls, and he knows pot prohibition is an idea that’s long past its expiration date.
•There’s nothing in it for Trump. By going after legalized marijuana, he attracts no support he doesn’t already have, and he alienates a lot of supporters and potential supporters he needs.
•In the latest Gallup poll, support among 18-34 year olds for legalizing marijuana reached 77 percent. Trump needs the young, and marijuana looks to be a path to millennials’ hearts. Attacking pot will just piss them off.
•Trump hired Sessions because of his stands on immigration, not pot.
•If Sessions continues to be a hard ass on marijuana, he may not get confirmed. The Senate may find it easier to ignore the racist comments he made 20 or 30 years ago than the anti-marijuana comments he made last April.
•Trump can turn marijuana into a states’ rights issue that will both appeal to liberals and give Republicans a face-saving way to ditch the drug war.
•There isn’t much down-side within the Republican Party for ditching the war on pot. The latest Gallup poll on marijuana found Republican support for legalizing marijuana had risen to 42 percent. Few Republicans are going to break ranks with Trump over pot if he decides to go rogue on the issue. The party has pretty much reconciled itself to Trump charting his own course on social agenda issues — especially social agenda issues that are stunting the party’s ability to grow.
•If Trump is serious about reaching out to Black America, a good way to start would be to quit arresting black people for marijuana.
Of course, it’s always possible that Trump will decide to double down on the drug war, as presidents since Nixon have done.
But past presidents haven’t encountered any serious downside for doing so. That isn’t the case anymore.