AG pick Ses­sions should mod­er­ate his ap­proach to mar­i­juana

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­na­tion of Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, R-Ala., to be at­tor­ney gen­eral of the United States rightly has pro­po­nents of mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion trou­bled.

Ses­sions, who at an April con­gres­sional hear­ing re­marked that “good peo­ple don’t smoke mar­i­juana,” and joked in the past that he thought mem­bers of the Ku Klux Klan were “okay un­til I found out they smoked pot,” is a hard-line drug war­rior at a time when most of the na­tion has sig­naled a will­ing­ness to per­mit mar­i­juana use.

Re­cent pub­lic opin­ion polls have shown a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans sup­port le­gal­iza­tion, in­clud­ing polls con­ducted by Gallup and Pew Re­search find­ing 60 per­cent and 57 per­cent in sup­port, re­spec­tively. An ad­di­tional Gallup poll re­ported 13 per­cent of Amer­i­can adults iden­tify as cur­rent mar­i­juana users — bad peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to Ses­sions — and 43 per­cent of adults have tried mar­i­juana in their life­times.

While con­cerns over the abuse of mar­i­juana, or any sub­stance for that mat­ter, are per­fectly valid, it is clear that grow­ing num­bers of Amer­i­cans are no longer con­vinced that pro­hi­bi­tion and crim­i­nal­iza­tion are jus­ti­fi­able ap­proaches to the is­sue.

In fact, we now live in a na­tion where 29 states plus the District of Columbia have le­gal­ized mar­i­juana for medic­i­nal pur­poses, and eight states plus the District of Columbia have le­gal­ized mar­i­juana for recre­ational pur­poses, de­spite mar­i­juana of­fi­cially being il­le­gal un­der fed­eral law.

On Elec­tion Day, four states — Cal­i­for­nia, Maine, Mas­sachusetts and Ne­vada — voted to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana. An ad­di­tional three states — Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota — voted to al­low med­i­cal mar­i­juana in their re­spec­tive ju­ris­dic­tions, while Mon­tana vot­ers ap­proved a mea­sure bet­ter fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess to med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

Un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the De­part­ment of Jus­tice has ef­fec­tively taken a hands-off ap­proach, al­low­ing states to try their own ap­proaches to mar­i­juana pol­icy. But mar­i­juana re­mains a Sched­ule I drug, il­le­gal un­der fed­eral law for medic­i­nal or recre­ational use and dis­tri­bu­tion.

Go­ing on his record and past state­ments, the prospects of a hands-off ap­proach to mar­i­juana un­der a Ses­sions-led DOJ seem dim. “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington say­ing mar­i­juana is not the kind of thing that ought to be le­gal­ized, it ought to be min­i­mized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” said Ses­sions at a hear­ing in April.

If there’s any room for op­ti­mism, it comes from state­ments made by Don­ald Trump through­out his cam­paign. “In terms of mar­i­juana and le­gal­iza­tion, I think that should be a state is­sue, state-by-state,” he said to The Washington Post last year. He later told Bill O’Reilly that he is “a hun­dred per­cent” in sup­port of med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

We com­pletely agree with these stances from Trump. Al­low­ing states greater free­dom to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ing ap­proaches to com­plex prob­lems is of­ten de­sir­able, and this is cer­tainly the case with re­spect to mar­i­juana.

Ide­ally, Congress should con­sider re­mov­ing mar­i­juana from the fed­eral drug sched­ul­ing sys­tem en­tirely to re­move any am­bi­gu­ity about the le­gal sta­tus of mar­i­juana. Short of that, a con­tin­u­a­tion of the cur­rent hand­soff pol­icy from the DOJ makes more sense than go­ing against the wishes of the vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans. —

We com­pletely agree with these stances from Trump. Al­low­ing states greater free­dom to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ing ap­proaches to com­plex prob­lems is of­ten de­sir­able, and this is cer­tainly the case with re­spect to mar­i­juana.

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