Legal-Weed States Tell Jeff Sessions Their Programs Are Working. He Might Crack Down Anyway.

 In Legalization

The attorney general personally opposes marijuana, and seems willing to ignore evidence. Bummer.

Huffington Post / By Matt Ferner / August 3, 2017

Marijuana legalization is going smoothly in Colorado and Oregon, state officials recently told the Justice Department as it prepares for a shift in federal law enforcement priorities that could include changes to marijuana policy.

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch drug opponent, nevertheless is considering reversing the Obama administration’s relaxed approach to state legalization, and may resume strictly enforcing federal laws, which still regard all marijuana use as illegal.

Sessions in February named a task force to review U.S. enforcement of laws surrounding immigration, drug trafficking and violent crime. Colorado and Oregon, among the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, submitted lengthy reports to Justice Department officials, detailing well-regulated legal marijuana industries that generate vast tax revenue and no measurable increase in crime or health problems.

The task force forwarded its proposals last week, Sessions said, but the Justice Department wouldn’t disclose what they are.

“Those recommendations went to the AG,” spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said. “We’ll make announcements on policy changes when we have announcements to make.”

Colorado and Oregon ― among eight legal-weed states that know the issues best ― produced detailed reports on their experiences, officials said.

140-page report from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) office contains data and analysis from six state agencies, showing that the state’s 2014 marijuana legalization didn’t significantly increase youth drug abuse, school dropouts or juvenile arrests.

Statistics do show a rise in car crashes and fatalities involving motorists testing positive for cannabinoids. But Colorado’s report notes the statistics may not prove more drivers are intoxicated, because inactive marijuana compounds can be detected for more than a month in some individuals. Marijuana DUIs have declined 21 percent in the first six months of 2017 from the same period a year earlier.

Colorado reported collecting $459.5 million in marijuana taxes as of May, and used the money for school construction, regulation and enforcement of marijuana laws, youth prevention programs, substance-abuse treatment programs, and public education campaigns.

Legalization has “facilitated the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars into the Federal Reserve System that would otherwise exist outside of the nation’s banking system,” the report says. Even though federal banking regulations continue to force the industry to rely on cash, the report says, legalization helps ensure the money is “not diverted to criminal enterprises.”

19-page report prepared by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) office gives a positive view of legalization that safeguards public safety, and describes the state’s robust system tracking weed from seed to sale. The document was first made public in June following a records request by Oregonian reporter Noelle Crombie.

Oregon’s report acknowledges the continued existence of a marijuana black market. It also notes legalization’s hiccups, including “overproduction” and new laws it needed to place limits on growers and to increase penalties for marijuana-related crimes.

Oregon reported collecting more than $60 million in marijuana taxes in 2016.

“We passed legislation to tighten down seed-to-sale tracking in the medical arena,” Brown told HuffPost in an interview late last month. “My staffers on this are working very closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Brown said Sessions’ Justice Department hadn’t yet done anything to undermine the state’s laws.

“It is just making everyone nervous,” Brown said. “I haven’t seen anything ― it’s just different.”

Oregon and Colorado are among eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have medical marijuana laws (17 other states have laws allowing limited use of cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in pot that some say has therapeutic properties).


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