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Jeff Sessions Admits He Can’t Stop Marijuana Legalization (Sort Of)

Photo bu MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has yet to demonstrate if he and his administration are any good at governance—and there is mounting evidence that, in fact, Steve Bannon and company may be very bad at this job—but his team is at least consistent in one area: Disseminating threatening information to the country via conservative media and watching the ensuing confused freak-out with evident twisted satisfaction.

Last week, our mendacious and Russophilic Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared on the talk show of Hugh Hewitt, a conservative commentator who also has a Washington Post column (and voted for Donald Trump in November, after asking him to drop out of the race in October).

The week before, prior to revelations that Sessions at best misled fellow U.S. senators during his January confirmation hearings regarding his contacts with Russian officials, Sessions sent the marijuana industry grasping for Xanax with the latest in a series of vague statements on what—if anything—he plans to do about the country’s marijuana industry.

Speaking with Hewitt, Sessions delivered more of the same, declaring, as he suggested in January, that the Justice Department plans to enforce federal laws on marijuana—but in an “appropriate way.”

“[M]arijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws,” Sessions told Hewitt, according to a recap of the show published by Business Insider. “And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize.”

“Neighbors are complaining, and lawsuits are being filed against them,” said Sessions, referring to the (failed) efforts by the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska to compel the federal government to intervene and punish Colorado for its marijuana legalization experiment.

What does all that mean—in the real world, and in Sessions’ head? Nobody really knows. But later in the conversation came Sessions’ big tell.

As Business Insider reported:

“…. Sessions did admit that it’s not possible for the federal government to go in and enforce federal law in every legal state, where police and local authorities are beholden to state law.”

This is consistent with observations made by drug policy expert Mark A. R. Kleiman and others: There are but 4,000 DEA agents worldwide, and it would require all their combined might, and the help of many, many others, to put even a significant dent in America’s burgeoning, worth-many-billions weed industry.

Attorneys advising the cannabis industry say that the most-likely targets are “bad actors” who break state law. These are the kinds of businesses already in the crosshairs of authorities, both state and federal.

Some marijuana insiders believe the decider will be Trump, if the president would only say something.

For some reason, despite a well-noted tendency to spout off on anything and everything else, Trump himself has yet to say anything publicly about marijuana since taking office, despite pleas for something as insubstantial as a tweet.

But that’s probably not realistic.

Judging by how the Trump White House has operated on immigration, on health care and on international relations, Trump takes his cues from his in-house team of deplorables. Steve Bannon writes executive orders, shady characters like Paul Manafort dictate policy on Russia. And Jeff Sessions will take the lead on drug policy.

What that lead will be, nobody but him can say—and he might not know, either.

It’s quite possible Sessions himself has no idea what to do or where to start and is taking his time to weigh his options before making a move. Sessions is surely aware that legalization enjoys record support among Americans—and that if the will of the people were reflected in Congress, federal lawmakers would legalize cannabis, just as Sessions himself suggested during his January confirmation hearings.

Then again, as we and many others have said, Sessions is doing damage to the marijuana industry just by speaking up from time to time. If he can keep cannabis off-balance and anxious, that might be enough for now.

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