Up In Smoke

Sessions gets blank check to take down marijuana industry

Once again, the Arizona marijuana industry enters limbo. With the passage of the Senate tax reform, a short amendment standing between Department of Justice and legal marijuana businesses disappeared from federal law.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, named for lawmakers from California and Oregon, has been the major national protection for marijuana businesses, allowing the $7 billion industry to bloom across the nation since 2014.

On Dec. 22, that amendment expired, giving Attorney General Jeff Sessions the reins to pursue prosecutions of marijuana businesses as he sees fit, regardless of state legality.

Marijuana advocates in the industry and Congress have been aware of the potential loss of protection for a while. In September, House Republicans decided to forego voting on whether to include the amendment in their spending bill.

Even before that, Sessions touted the states' mishandling of the industry leading to increased trafficking, higher teen-use rates and more traffic fatalities. Last summer, Sessions sent letters to legal recreational marijuana states raising those issues, and state leaders fired back, calling him on his "misunderstanding" of the facts.

Perhaps the most revealing divide between reality and Sessions' prohibition wet dream was the results of his Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. In August, the subcommittee, tasked with developing a strategy for cracking down on marijuana, came up emptyhanded.

Since his appointment, Sessions has been trying to find a reason to take down marijuana, but he might as well be grasping at smoke. Proponents, and even his own staff, have shown his concerns to be nothing more than hot air every time.

An old-school southerner, Sessions is bound to have a hard time believing that marijuana could in any way benefit society. He is the leader of a shrinking sect of society unwilling to accept a new reality.

Now he sits atop an armor-clad steed, flanked by the banners of the DOJ, with a battlefield in front of him. The horns have sounded, and the dogs have been let loose. His first target is anyone's guess.

Sessions doesn't believe marijuana is as safe we think it is, but, in his own words, that's his opinion. He doesn't believe that unilateral access to marijuana will make this country a better place, but it has improved the lives of millions.

What does make this country a better place, Mr. Sessions, is allowing people the freedom to make their own decisions regardless of the consequences. We have states in this country to allow a plurality of lifestyles, opinions and choices.

That's how someone from the South, where voters just barely rejected an alleged child molester in a U.S. Senate race earlier this month, can achieve a position in which they can force their dated perspective on people across the country.

Your job is not to police the morals of law-abiding citizens as you see fit. Your job, as the chief law enforcement officer in this country, is to serve and protect citizens, not from flowers, but from real dangers, like rifle-wielding mass murderers.

Even as Sessions beats the drums of war, the odds aren't so one-sided. Marijuana advocacy runs deep in both the public and private sectors, and proponents won't go down without a fight.

So, Mr. Sessions, to borrow from a cause with which you may be more sympathetic, I leave you with a promise: I'll give you my nug when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

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