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Radical Rant: Sessions’ DOJ Wants to Crackdown on Weed—But Will They?

Russ Belville

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There has been much trepidation within the cannabis community since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, and with him, the installation of uber-prohibitionist Jeff Sessions as his attorney general.

There hasn’t been an attorney general who hates cannabis and those who consume it as much as Jeff Sessions since the turn of the century when John Ashcroft took time away from covering naked statue breasts to persecute a California medical marijuana patient with brain cancer.

Amidst recusing himself over the Russian election cyberattack investigation, announcing that children of undocumented immigrants may soon be deported to countries where they are foreigners and deciding that religious bigotry against LGBT people is a First Amendment right, Sessions has been so mired in controversy, scandal and the political ineptitude of his boss that the Department of Justice has yet to tighten the screws on legalized marijuana states.

However, there are some signs that the federal law enforcement behemoth may slowly be gearing up for a crackdown.

Sessions’ backup, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, recently spoke at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Speaking about the “Cole Memo,” the 2013 policy from then-Attorney General Eric Holder that protects state marijuana programs from federal interference, Rosenstein was coy about whether it would remain intact.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“We are reviewing that policy. We haven’t changed it, but we are reviewing it. We’re looking at the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is,” he said. “And I think there is some pretty significant evidence that marijuana turns out to be more harmful than a lot of people anticipated, and it’s more difficult to regulate than I think was contemplated ideally by some of those states.”

“More harmful,” says Rosenstein, as if we don’t have data from the feds showing that fewer kids are smoking pot, fewer teens are admitted to rehab for marijuana, and studies from doctors showing that states with legal access to marijuana have lower rates of opiate abuse and fewer opiate overdoses.

Nevertheless, Rosenstein hints that the Department of Justice’s review may lead toward increased prosecutions by warning the audience that the Cole Memo changes nothing about federal marijuana prohibition.

“Even if, under the terms of the memo you’re not likely to be prosecuted,” he warned, “it doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is legal or that it’s approved by the federal government or that you will be protected from prosecution in the future.”

While Rosenstein is soothing the cultural conservative base, Huffington Post reports that officials from numerous High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and the National Marijuana Initiative (NMI) have been requesting detailed patient demographic information from state medical marijuana programs. HIDTA and NMI are both programs under the control of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), or “the drug czar.”

NMI has requested age, gender and qualifying condition data on patients, plus the count of medical marijuana cards issued by California and Nevada, while HIDTA officials have requested the same from Oregon. The official making the requests from NMI is Dale Quigley, a former Colorado drug cop and virulent prohibitionist, who believes if Colorado voters knew the facts about marijuana, they wouldn’t have approved medical marijuana in 2000 much less recreational marijuana in 2012.

To their credit, the officials in the medical marijuana programs have basically told Quigley, “let me Google that for you,” and have directed him to their state websites, which already provide the basic data he has been asking for.

Why would the pot-hating HIDTAs and Quigley be so interested in “doing comparative demographic research into states with medical provisions for marijuana and the use of a state-issued identification card,” unless they thought that information helped their prohibitionist cause?

I can tell you exactly what they’re up to, since state-level prohibitionists have played the same tune for years now. They’re going to find that the vast majority of patients are using cannabis to treat chronic pain.

Then, they’ll dismiss these patients’ “pain” by arguing that they are faking or lying just to get high. From there, they’ll buttress these allegations by noting how disproportionately young and male the pain patients are.

How do I know? Because I’ve been listening to King Prohibitionist Kevin Sabet drone on about how “the average Prop 215 card holder was a 32-year-old white male with no life-threatening illness” for five years now. And because Dale Quigley says, “I didn’t realize that in the Denver metro area so many 18- to 25-year-old males had serious and critical medical conditions.”

If you take the comments from these two, Rosenstein and Quigley, and place them in the context of a Sessions’ DOJ, it looks to me like some sort of crackdown is coming and they are planting the seeds of doubt to justify it.

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