Isn’t it interesting that with all the issues on his Justice Department plate — the opioid crisis, gang and inner-city violence and identity theft, to name just a few — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is wasting his breath on marijuana?
Sessions recently announced harsher enforcement of federal marijuana laws as opposed to those of individual states. What he did was formally rescind a policy perpetuated during the Obama administration which basically directed U.S. prosecutors to respect states’ laws regarding marijuana and subject them to no federal interference.
This includes places such as Colorado, where recreational pot use became legal and seemingly is occurring without incident. The Rocky Mountain State certainly hasn’t crumbled into a big pile of ashes since marijuana was legalized there four years ago this month.
Meanwhile, 91 Americans are dying every day on average from opioid overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
When one dissects why Sessions is not concentrating on the epidemic surrounding opiates, which should be Job One, and is targeting marijuana — Job 10 or 12, tops — the answer appears to be generational in nature.
Due to being born in 1946 in the conservative Deep South (Alabama), Sessions was coming into his own as a prosecutor in the wake of the so-called Hippie Movement. It was a period of rebellion marked by guys with long hair flashing peace signs and preaching anti-Establishment rhetoric.
This also was aligned with the marijuana culture in which joint-smoking became twisted up with the counter-culture movement and promoted fears that the “killer weed” somehow would destroy America.
I can remember back in the 1970s when people who wore T-shirts with images of pot leaves on the front and openly read High Times magazine were treated as menaces to society by those of Jeff Sessions’ ilk, while alcohol use thrived.
And now after fast-forwarding 40 years or so, we can look back and see where the “marijuana menace” was nothing compared to the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s period, and the crack-cocaine epidemic after that. Then came methamphetamine and other deadly substances, including the present situation with opioid misuse and abuse.
The major distinction between the idiotic mania of the past and the reality of today is exemplified by the fact there is not one documented case I’m aware of where someone has died from a marijuana overdose.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia now have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form, including the use of cannabis for medical purposes for conditions such as nausea, appetite stimulation, glaucoma and more. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use, which include Colorado, and most recently California.
Results of a public opinion poll released earlier this month from a survey by the Pew Research Center in October show that about six-in-ten Americans (61 percent) believe pot should be legalized, including the majority of citizens in Jeff Sessions’ home state of Alabama. The latest poll figures mirror a steady increase over the past decade in those calling for legalization.
Yet none of this has kept our attorney general from focusing on pot, which is totally irresponsible on its face since there are certainly bigger fish to fry from the Department of Justice standpoint. Again, I must mention the opioid problem that has likely led to at least a few more overdose deaths in the time I’ve been writing this column.
Sessions has signaled a willingness to go after the Cheeches and Chongs of the world rather that the slick $500-suit-wearing corporate executives whose pharmaceutical companies are getting Americans hooked on deadly pain killers and other substances. All the while their lobbyists are greasing the wheels of Congress.
The attorney general’s stance against marijuana is bothersome from both a moral and practical standpoint.
Sessions, most recently a U.S. senator, is a member of a Republican administration that’s touted itself as a supporter of states’ rights, except for things with which Sessions seems to have a lingering personal problem, namely marijuana.
However, the attorney general — who has experience proving things in court to convict people — will himself be judged on the wrong side of history when it comes to cannabis.
The cat is pretty much out of the bag when you consider the various states that have legalized it and the momentum for more to do likewise, and I don’t think any rationally minded person predicts all this being undone.
Does the term “Prohibition” ring a bell?
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.