If there was one fear I had with a Trump presidency (on the domestic front) it was that he would appoint a prohibitionist as Attorney General. I feared that Chris Christie the cop might find his way into the role. Thankfully he didn’t. Senator Jeff Sessions has however.
We have respect for Senator Sessions. We disagree with him on a number of issues but again, we have respect. On marijuana however, I fear he’s terrible.
About the only thing I can see that is positive that came out of the Obama years is the fact that some states began to assert their rights under the 10th Amendment and began to nullify pot prohibition. This is the Constitutional way to deal with the drug issue. Each state should determine its own path. That is actually the small government, conservative, position.
Broad federal prohibitionist laws in contrast make a mockery of our Constitution and indeed the rule of law itself. Our founding fathers (at least most of them) would have been appalled at the prospect of a “Drug Enforcement Agency” for instance.
So we pray that an Attorney General Sessions doesn’t appeal to his worse angels on this one. Cannabis prohibition should continue to be scaled back. It’s just not that big a deal. It is however a huge deal that the Federal government has overstepped its Constitutional authority on the issue since the days of FDR.
It has been widely reported that Jeff Sessions once said that “good people don’t smoke pot.” That is just pure unmitigated highly processed nitrate laden baloney.
Actually, “good people” don’t tell other people what to do with their lives. This is supposed to be the “land of the free.” We hope Sessions will remember this in the months and years ahead.
At a hearing last April, Sessions bemoaned the message sent by marijuana legalization. “I can’t tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we’ve made,” he said. “It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline [in drug use]. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
In both of these cases, we see Sessions’ insistence that truth be subordinated to the anti-drug cause. It is beyond serious dispute that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, as measured by acute toxicity, impact on driving ability, frequency of addiction, and the long-term effects of heavy consumption. But Sessions thinks the president should not admit that, lest he encourage teenagers to smoke pot. It is patently absurd to suggest that everyone who tries cannabis—which includes at least two-fifths of the population and probably more like half, allowing for underreporting by survey respondents—is a bad person. But Sessions thinks the government should “send that message with clarity,” the better to discourage teenagers from smoking pot.
The senator’s position on civil forfeiture is also very concerning.
Sessions defends civil forfeiture as well as draconian drug sentences. As Robert Everett Johnson of the Institute for Justice pointed out last year, Sessions does not think it should be any harder than it is for the government to take property supposedly linked to drug offenses, which it can do through civil forfeiture without even charging the owner, let alone convicting him. At a hearing on “The Need to Reform Asset Forfeiture” in April 2015, Sessions said it’s obvious that “criminal violators ought not to be able to keep their ill-gotten gains.” He averred, without citing any evidence, that “95 percent” of people who lose money to forfeiture have “done nothing in their lives but sell dope.”
We need to get government out of our lives. We need to make it more difficult for government to violate the sanctity of property. Remember, the small government crowd, and I include the growing libertarian movement and much of the not quite libertarian TEA Party people, constitute an important part of the coalition that put Trump in the White House. An effort to reignite the drug war would push this constituency right out of the fold. And that would be a shame as there is so much to do.