The progress that we’ve made in the last 50 years has been dramatic; from the first marijuana decriminalization laws passed in Oregon in 1973, to the headlong rush for recreational and medical marijuana legislation today, we’re within striking distance of full, nationwide legalization. However, the current administration features Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, an Attorney General who is extremely outspoken against weed.
Here are 5 of the main reasons he will fail to reverse the progress we’ve made.
There’s a ton of money in growing, marketing, distribution, and sales of marijuana.
State tax revenue alone — especially in states where budgets are busted for things such as schools and roads — will keep the political pressure on to leave it legalized where it’s already legal, and for the feds to look the other way in states that will legalize it this year, either medically or recreationally.
For example, in a state like Nevada, just one year of full recreational legalization has brought in $30 million from the 10 percent retail tax. That’s not including the 15 percent wholesale tax and sales tax at the dispensary level. Similar taxes are levied in the state of Colorado, which in 2017 raised more than $250 million in tax revenue on recreational marijuana sales of over $1 billion.
Also, quite simply, with money comes power, votes, and influence.
Young people demand their freedom!
In a 2016 Gallup poll, support for marijuana legalization hit 77 percent among the 18-34 age group. (Pew found pretty much the same number).
Indeed, there’s no age bracket that opposes legalization apart from those aged 65 and older.
Why are those numbers important? Because young people vote — and volunteer to get out the vote, and donate to campaigns. In fact, if either medical or recreational marijuana is on the ballot in a given state, odds are that young people are more likely to turn out and vote — and they’re not likely to vote for a conservative politician who opposes marijuana legalization. Pretty simple math, really.
Lastly, a majority of Republicans now support medical or recreational ganja, and that means politicians and their hirelings must sit up and pay attention.
Eight states now allow full recreational use of marijuana, and 29 states have medical programs. Twelve more states are considering some form of legalization this year.
That will leave just four states with no laws on the books allowing access of some kind. You know how there’s a large section of conservatives and independents who scream regularly about “states’ rights” and eliminating “big government”? They’re boxed into a corner on this issue. In addition, the issue of states’ rights can bring together multiple organizations that normally are at odds; for example, the American Civil Liberties Union working together with right-wing Americans For Prosperity, which both support new legislation introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) that will give states greater control over whether or not they will allow weed to be sold legally, as well as removing the conflict of federal law with state laws.
Marijuana helps people who are in pain — including veterans — cope, without the side effects of opiates.
Again, this one comes down to increasing political pressure. Study after study has shown that in states where weed is legally available — either medical or recreational — opioid usage goes down. At a time when political landscapes in big and small towns across the country are beginning to shift to combat opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose, the political cost of taking away a key support component of pain relief for millions of people is dear, indeed.
Donald Trump is indicating a strong shift in federal policy on marijuana, against what Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to see.
If it actually came to be, it’s a shrewd political move that would gain #45 and his party some supporters at a key time, especially if the next election or two are in question. This president is all about opportunism, and this is one of those moments.
Sessions and Trump fail to see eye-to-eye on a lot of things; likely, a full-on legalization effort by Trump would see Jeff Sessions exiting stage right — willingly or not.
Despite the saber-rattling that Sessions regularly does regarding ganja, the facts and the political winds are definitely blowing against him.
It’s just a matter of time.