January 8, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated that he intends to “return to the rule of law,” starting a new era of 1920s-type Prohibition in the United States—this time, for marijuana rather than alcoholic beverages.
While the ban would not be mandatory—Sessions would allow federal prosecutors in areas where marijuana already is legal to decide how aggressively to enforce it—the intention is clear.
Sessions, a former Alabama senator, plainly said at an April 2016 hearing: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
That may be what he believes, but U.S. citizens and their legislators are not happy about it. Indeed, pot legalization has been very popular nationwide: 64% percent of Americans favor it, based on results of an October 2017 Gallup poll.
“Sessions’s move just adds another weight to the ankles of vulnerable House Republicans in places like California and Colorado,” Brian Fallon, a former spokesperson for the Senate Democratic leadership and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, told Bloomberg this week. “Given the support for decriminalization across political parties, and especially among young voters, this was an issue that progressives already should have been considering for state ballot measures. That is even truer now.”
Gardner—who doesn’t face re-election until 2020—has vowed to block Justice Department nominees from being confirmed unless Sessions reverses course, Bloomberg reports.
The question for Republicans is whether pushing back publicly will fuel Democratic opponents’ criticism during the upcoming, fiercely competitive midterm campaign.
The issue looms large in Colorado, Nevada and California, which legalized marijuana and where several congressional Republicans, including California Representative Dana Rohrabacher (48th District) , already are facing tough re-election battles.
“This is a freedom issue,” Rohrabacher said in a January 4 conference call with reporters, calling for a change in federal law to protect legal marijuana in states. “I think Jeff Sessions has forgotten about the Constitution and the 10th Amendment,” which gives powers to the states.
“By taking this benighted minority position, [Sessions] actually places Republicans’ electoral fortunes in jeopardy,” Rohrabacher said in a statement later Thursday.
The question for Republicans is whether whatever they choose to do now will fuel Democratic opponents’ criticism during the upcoming, fiercely competitive midterm campaign.
“It’s time for anyone who cares about this issue to mobilize and push back strongly against this decision,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon (3rd District), a Democrat who is co-chairman of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
Research contact: @sahilkapur