Saturday, February 16, 2019

As I See It…

January 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Health, Money, News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( Attorney General Jeff Sessions kicked off 2018 by launching his attempt to reignite the war on drugs – not against opioid abuse but against marijuana. He said his reversal of Obama era policy was an effort to “reflect Congress’s determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and marijuana activity is a serious crime.” It was not lost on anyone that this happened the same week that California began legal sale of recreational weed.

In 2013, Assistant Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole authored what came to be called the “Cole memo” giving U.S. attorneys around the country “the latitude to use prosecutorial discretion” in pursuing pot cases in states where pot use had been decriminalized or legalized. Sessions countermanded Justice Department policy when he said, “Today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.” The country seems to have moved on, however, as the latest Gallup tracking poll from October of last year indicated that 64% of Americans support legalization.

Several arguments are being put forward to justify legal medical and recreational pot use:


  • States’ Rights – As of right now, 30 states allow marijuana use in some form and 8 allow recreational use. States have often been called “laboratories of democracy” and conservatives have often taken positions in favor of States’ Rights over the rights of the Federal government. Indeed, in a HuffPost/YouGov poll, 56% of respondents opposed federal intervention into state laws governing the possession and use of weed. I have some concerns about the States’ Rights arguments though, as this was the position used to support and enforce racial segregation. For me, that makes it better to look at some of the other arguments.


  • Medical Use – An estimated 2.6 million Americans rely on legal medical marijuana including cancer patients, children suffering from seizures and traumatized veterans. For this last group, the American Legion, hardly a leftist organization, has voted to expand research and safe access to medical marijuana for its members with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and chronic pain. Several active and retired NFL players have begun to advocate for use of medical marijuana for pain relief in lieu of the addictive opioids teams freely provide them before, during and after games. This is a timely discussion seeing that opioid overdoses are estimated to have resulted in 64,000 deaths in 2016, more than twice as many as gun deaths.


  • Mass Incarceration – In her book “The New Jim Crow”, Michelle Alexander points out the startling fact that there are more African Americans under correctional system jurisdiction (jails, prisons, parole and probation) than were enslaved before the start of the Civil War. She further elaborates that more African Americans cannot vote today, because of felony convictions, than in 1870 when the 15th Amendment to the Constitution granted formerly enslaved people that right. (Remember that recently defeated Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore said he “didn’t believe in” any Amendments to the Constitution after the 10th.) Although black and white drug use is roughly the same, black people are at least 3.5 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug use or possession. The war on drugs has truly been a war on us.

Weed was a $7.9 billion business in 2017, before California began legal recreational sales, and if legalized throughout the U.S., sales are projected to produce over $130 billion in tax revenue and create over 1 million jobs by 2025. There is a Congressional Cannabis Caucus whose members are from the states that have legalized recreational use and Representative Thomas Garrett, from Virginia, has introduced H.R. 1227 (Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act) removing pot from other Schedule 1 drugs and eliminating federal penalties for engaging in state-legal marijuana activities. Although Sessions wants to take us “back”, many forces are seeking to move us forward.

Recently, a State Representative from Kansas was shown on tape at a town hall meeting “explaining” why weed needed to remain illegal. He said something like, looking back to the 1930s when it was outlawed, (helped by the film Reefer Madness), it was because “blacks were the users and responded worse to drugs as a response to their character and genetic make up…” What a crock! White heroin and pill addicts deserve our sympathy and treatment, their addictions being no fault of their own, but black pot smokers deserve to be locked up because of some character flaw? If this is what it means to “Make America Great Again”, I’m not having any part of it.

We can’t be distracted by the unending antics emanating from the White House and lose sight of the regressive policies coming out of the cabinet agencies like the Justice Department. These people must be stopped and the ballot box is the best way to do it.

Vote 2018!

Staff Writer; Harry D. Sewell


One Response to “As I See It…”
  1. Douglas Loss says:

    I think the Trump administrations signals that they will enforce existing federal laws is a good thing. Our country shouldn’t have a culture that believes laws are only suggestions, to be ignored when you don’t like them. Additionally, if the people don’t like a particular law, it shouldn’t be the Executive’s place to decide that that law no longer will be enforced. Instead, Congress should do its job and repeal the law. Way too many elected congressmen and senators don’t want to do the hard work of legislating, preferring to just pass vague bills and then insist that the Executive branch should define what they mean, so they can’t be held accountable for disliked actions at election time. Holding Congress’s collective feet to the fire is a good thing. Maybe they’ll repeal the laws being discussed. If not, we’ll know who to vote out and replace.

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