Donald Trump’s choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is not only a racist, but he is absolutely against the legalization of marijuana. And as Attorney General, he would have the unilateral power to make it illegal again, even in the states that have decriminalized it.
How can this be? Because there are still harsh federal laws against marijuana, which make it illegal even for medical use. When the states decriminalized pot, starting with Colorado, the Justice Department issued a memo saying that they would not prosecute users and sellers in states where it was legalized. However, that memo could easily be reversed by the new Attorney General.
That’s right, Republicans claim to believe in states’ rights, but would gladly use federal law to overrule the states.
Even though according to Scientific American, teen use of marijuana actually went down in Colorado after legalization. And legalization has brought in tons of tax revenue to cash-starved states.
This also ties in with Sessions’ racism, since minorities are far more likely to be arrested and jailed for marijuana use. African Americans are arrested 3.7 times more often for smoking pot, even though usage rates for whites and blacks are roughly equal.
I’ve always been unclear on how the Federal arguments against legalization are valid. My understanding is that, at the Federal level, they are pretty much restricted to interstate commerce. Everything else is left to state control.
So what happened?
First off look at the Landmark Case, Gonzales v. Raich (2005). This case is the current holding passed down by the United States Supreme Court.
It is true that the federal government is only able to regulate goods and services that are related to interstate commerce, this is called the Commerce Clause, and states control all matters of health, safety, morals, and general welfare of their residents, this is Policing Powers. However, anything if it crosses state lines falls under the Commerce Clause. I suggest looking up the landmark cases regarding the Commerce Clause.
The use of the Commerce Clause is the way that the Federal Government is able to control Marijuana. The Supreme Court found that the distribution and consumption of Marijuana does not fall under the Policing Powers of the state. The majority found (6 to 3) that even though the law said that the drug was only to be grown, sold, and consumed by Californians the drug could still cross state borders. This means that the the Federal Government could regulate the drug. “The Government has not overcome empirical doubt that the number of Californians engaged in personal cultivation, possession, and use of medical marijuana, or the amount of marijuana they produce, is enough to threaten the federal regime. Nor has it shown that Compassionate Use Act marijuana users have been or are realistically likely to be responsible for the drug’s seeping into the market in a significant way.”
I know this was a long winded response but I am a lawyer and we love to talk. I hope I answered your question.
Ethan — I would love to chat with you about this. Feel free to drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org