Huffed and Puffed

AG Sessions' marijuana crackdown fizzles


It looks like Attorney General Jeff Sessions has run into some problems in his crusade against the marijuana. While the new Department of Justice administration has long been mounting pressure against the marijuana industry, the latest suggestion from the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety is to, well, do nothing.

The subcommittee was announced months ago and tasked with developing a legal avenue for Session's marijuana crackdown. However, the Associated Press reported the group "has come up with no new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general's aggressively anti-marijuana views."

According to the AP, the groups next step is to simply evaluate the current policy outlined by the Obama-era Cole Memo, which suggests a hands-off approach allowing states to experiment with the marijuana industry.

The decision is the best-case scenario for recreational marijuana states, four of which received foreboding letters from Sessions leading up to expected suggestions on revamping marijuana enforcement.

Three of the four states, Colorado, Washington and Oregon, replied to Sessions' letters challenging his concerns. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wrote that Sessions made "a number of allegations that are outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information."

A letter from Washington state lawmakers to Sessions read: "We believe your comments reflect a misunderstanding of what has happened in Washington State since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012."

So it's only fitting that Sessions' own taskforce find little to do about states' marijuana laws.

The lack of a renewed enforcement policy is good news for states like Arizona looking to legalize recreational marijuana in the coming years. If the task force created by the man with the most power to disrupt the marijuana industry can't find any viable options for increased enforcement, then the business must be doing something right.

Marijuana opponents often cite sources like reports from High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, which typical paint a dismal picture surrounding outcomes of recreational marijuana and the proliferation of black market weed. But if Sessions' own taskforce couldn't come up with a crackdown given that resource of data, then how viable could that information be?

Like Inslee said in his letter, Sessions concerns are misguided. Sessions even cited HIDTA reports in his letters, and now two independent government bodies have decided there's not much to do about it.

This is good news for the integrity of our society, which marijuana opponents have much concern about. Despite efforts to show that marijuana somehow frays the fabric of public health, it looks like the industry is doing most things right, which will likely lead to greater acceptance of the business as a whole.

Here in Arizona, officials pointed to an issues surrounding the taxes of Maricopa County marijuana businesses as an ironic acceptance of the industry.

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen has determined that medical businesses have been remiss in a total of $1.5 million state and federal property taxes. While that sounds like a bad thing, the mere act of having the conversation (coupled with the businesses' eagerness to comply with tax law, according to Scottsdale medical marijuana attorney Ryan Hurley) indicates a wider acceptance of the industry.

Demitri Downing, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association, believes the conversation indicates an advancement in marijuana's societal acceptance.

"The real story here is: Oh my god, how the world has changed," he told the Arizona Republic. "Now we're having an intelligent discussion about fixing these small issues instead of prohibition or no prohibition."

Hopefully Sessions' task force now moves on to that discussion, since even it decided prohibition is not the next chapter of marijuana in the United States.

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