Attorney general interferes with State cannabis law

US states have been progressively liberalising cannabis laws, with decriminalisation coming into effect in California at the start of this year.

But the US Attorney General has rescinded policy that will now enable much stronger federal enforcement of drug laws.

States are not happy, and Republican politicians are amongst those with concerns about the potential effects.

Steve Kurtz at Fox News:  Should pot be legal? Let states decide that question, not the federal government

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded an Obama administration policy that blocked U.S. attorneys from prosecuting marijuana cases in states where the drug is legal. He announced Thursday that he is instead leaving it up to federal prosecutors to use their discretion in determining whether to enforce the federal law banning the sale and use of the drug.

It’s not clear what the full effect of this new policy will be. But it suggests the Justice Department may be planning to strongly enforce federal drug laws against the budding marijuana industry.

Regardless of one’s views on marijuana, or drug use in general, this is an unfortunate move by the federal government. There are many issues which, by their nature, are federal issues. Punishment for drug use is not. In general, states should be allowed to police themselves.

For decades now there has been a movement to decriminalize marijuana. In recent years, it’s picked up steam, and there seems to be a general shift in public views on cannabis. Attorney General Sessions may not agree with this shift, but he should at least recognize it represents the beliefs of his fellow citizens.

Washington, D.C., and eight states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – have legalized recreational marijuana. Another 29 states allow for its medical use. These numbers seem likely to increase.

The people have spoken. They should not be overruled by the Justice Department. As Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado put it, Sessions’ decision “has trampled on the will of the voters.”

Gardner went further, noting that President Trump has said legalization should be up to the states. Gardner also said that before he “voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this administration.”

So what is Sessions up to? Pushing a personal barrow over the top of state law? Is Trump behind it, or in support of it? It is contrary to state cannabis trends and also contrary to public opinion.

Bloomberg: Marijuana Crackdown by Sessions Leaves GOP Fearing 2018 Backlash

Marijuana legalization has grown in popularity: 64 percent of Americans favor it, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll.

Support was 57 percent to 37 percent in a Pew Research survey released a year earlier — including a remarkable 71 percent of millennials, currently the largest group of eligible voters in the country.

State Republicans are unhappy.

An early indication of the issue’s potency was the fierce reaction of Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, a state where voters legalized cultivation and possession in 2012. Gardner, who also is chairman of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, slammed the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “a trampling of Colorado’s rights, its voters.”

“Why is Donald Trump thinking differently than what he promised the people of Colorado in 2016?” Gardner said in a speech Thursday on the Senate floor, evoking Trump’s campaign promise to leave the issue of marijuana legalization to states. “Thousands of jobs at risk, millions of dollars in revenue, and certainly the question of constitutional states rights — very much at the core of this discussion.”

The issue looms large in Colorado, Nevada and California, which legalized marijuana and where several congressional Republicans already are facing tough re-election battles. Nevada Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei are Democratic targets, as is Colorado Representative Mike Coffman. And some half-dozen GOP-held California House seats are in play, including three rated “toss up” that are represented by Steve Knight, Dana Rohrabacher and Darrell Issa.

“This is a freedom issue,” Rohrabacher said Thursday in a 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, he actually places Republicans’ electoral fortunes in jeopardy,” Rohrabacher said in a statement later Thursday.

David Flaherty, a Colorado-based GOP consultant at Magellan Strategies, said the Justice Department’s decision could lead to a “major backlash and a spike in younger voters” if it disrupts the current system in Colorado. “Folks that are 44 and under here in Colorado are much more comfortable with the legalization of marijuana,” he said.

This is an odd move without popular or political support.