The GOP has a marijuana problem only Trump can fix – Vice News

(By Keegan Hamilton at Vice News)  Unlike the three presidents before him, Donald Trump swears he has never smoked weed. But back when he was still a candidate, Trump emphasized that his personal aversion to pot had nothing to do with his politics. He said multiple times on the campaign trail that the issue of marijuana legalization “should be up to the states.”

So it came as a bit of a surprise when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a major policy change on Thursday that makes one thing clear: Under the Trump administration, legal weed isn’t up the states at all. In another rollback of an Obama-era policy, Sessions gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases at their own discretion, even in places where weed is now legal under state law.

Sessions’ move has left several Republican lawmakers and Trump allies fuming. They warn that not only does the president appear to be breaking a campaign pledge and putting himself at risk of alienating a swath of his base, he’s jeopardizing the long-term future of the GOP, since young voters overwhelmingly support legalization.

Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, who formed a bipartisan group called the U.S. Cannabis Coalition to push for legalization, was especially irked.

“This is not only bad public policy, it’s bad political policy,” Stone told VICE News. “It’s a vote loser, and it’s inconsistent with what the president promised the American people.”

Stone went so far as to speculate that Sessions may have gone rogue and changed the federal marijuana enforcement policy without running it by Trump first.

“I don’t even know if the president knows about this change,” he said. “The last time I spoke to the president on this issue, which was a couple months ago, there was no change on this, he was supportive of states’ rights to make their own decision.”

“This is not only bad public policy, it’s bad political policy.”

Asked about the discrepancy on Thursday, however, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that Trump had changed his mind. “The president believes in enforcing federal law,” she said. “That is regardless of what the topic is, whether it’s marijuana or it’s immigration.” The White House did not respond to a subsequent inquiry from VICE News.

Regardless of Trump’s personal beliefs, it’s clear there’s a weed schism within the GOP that could affect the party’s popularity at the polls for years to come. According to Gallup, 64 percent of Americans overall support marijuana legalization compared to just 51 percent of Republicans. The Pew Research Center found a huge generational divide among party members on the issue: 62 percent of those younger than 40 are on board with legalization, while those 65 and older are opposed by a margin of more than two-to-one.

So far, only a handful of Republicans in Congress, including four senators and four representatives, have spoken out against the Sessions’ new war on legal weed. Among them was California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a member of the bipartisan group of weed-friendly lawmakers who call themselves the Cannabis Caucus. Rohrabacher framed the brewing backlash against Sessions as an opportunity to convince Trump that cracking down on legal weed is a bad idea.

“I think Jeff Sessions has forgotten about the constitution and the 10th Amendment,” Rohrabacher said Thursday on a call with reporters. “Our president has not. I think we can reach the president now if we become mobilized.”

A customer purchases marijuana at Harborside marijuana dispensary, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Oakland, California.

Since 2003, Rohrabacher has co-sponsored an amendment to the federal budget that blocks the Justice Department from spending tax dollars to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The budget “rider” was first approved in 2014 and has been added to every spending bill in the years since, with the exception of the stopgap measure passed in December. Rohrbacher said Sessions’ recent move is a “wake up call” that underscores the importance of getting the provision back into the budget that Congress needs to approve before Jan. 19 to avoid a government shutdown.

 Because the budget rider expires every year, Rohrabacher has also introduced a separate piece of legislation that would make protections for states permanent. But to accomplish that, Trump’s support would be extremely advantageous.

“This is a president that is seeking to do what he said he was going to do in the election,” Rohrabacher said. “Now, what we’ve got to is hold his feet to the fire, get the message to him: ‘We know you promised this, your attorney general is now taking things in the opposite direction. Are you or are you not going to abide by the campaign pledges you made?’”

Previous versions of Rohrabacher’s budget amendment, cosponsored with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, have only covered medical marijuana. It’s likely that the version that will be attached to the next budget deal would be expanded in an effort to prevent the feds from spending tax dollars to go after recreational users and businesspeople.

But even if the amendment passes again, Hilary Bricken, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in cannabis law, warns there’s still no guarantee that it will stop Sessions from pursuing a weed crackdown if Trump lets him, since it’s unclear whether criminal defendants can successfully cite the budget rider in their defense.

Even under the Obama administration, Bricken said, federal prosecutors still occasionally went after people for medical marijuana, with the cases of Oakland’s Harborside dispensary and the Kettle Falls Five in Washington state being the prime examples. Neither of those prosecutions were successful, but the cases were legal slogs for the defendants that sucked up time and money. And Bricken noted that there’s already a playbook that tells U.S. attorneys how it should be done.

 “It’s a start, but it’s not a cure all,” Bricken said of Rohrabacher’s budget rider. “The DOJ has issued memo on how to deal with defenses on this amendment. It’s a comprehensive A to Z on what you do if a criminal defense asserts this amendment and how to fend it off and basically put them in prison.”
https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/d34xdw/the-gop-has-a-marijuana-problem-that-only-trump-can-fix

  • DrMesmer

    This unscientific and unreasonable War Against Pot must end and end soon. As many countries around the world begin to embrace both medicinal and industrial Cannabis use the United States falls behind in what will certainly play a huge part of the 21st century’s economies and infrastructure, as Cannabis has for millennium.

    Our founding fathers were passionate about Cannabis and would be outlaws in our times. This War on a staple commodity of humanity may have been the United States’ greatest blunder of the 20th century…ending it may be our finest moment of this era.
    Hemp Hemp Hooray, Hemp Can Save The Day, That’s Why We Do What We Do, bc Weed Can Save You! #KnowYourHistory #KnowYourHemp #HempHempHooray #op420 #USCannabisCoalition https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ce7aaf4902af36305b79253f82197baf0d09311f53c7b84ffb6e9fbcffd36f32.jpg

  • Daisy Eloise Applewhite

    It’s shameful the AG is so behind the times and unethical in his stance on the issue of marijuana. He’s doing the nation a severe injustice by rolling back Obama-era policies that gave leeway to the states that legalized marijuana. In the face of proven health benefits of pot, Sessions is trying to deny its access to people for whom cannabis is a preferred or the only treatment for relief from disease or injury. That is cruel. Sessions has no business putting his personal biases above the commonweal.

  • Lester

    I think weed will be legal in all states soon. Thanks to politicians like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and organizations like the Cannabis Caucus, us ordinary folks see that it’s not only stoners who advocate for pot’s legalization. I read about Roger Stone’s United States Cannabis Coalition a few months back. His organization is truly representative of all of us with its diverse membership – liberal and conservative politicians, business people and like I said, us ordinary citizens who want marijuana legalized. I’m sure they’ll be successful in pressuring the president to keep his campaign promise “to support the states’ authority to legalize possession and distribution of cannabis.”

  • Hambone

    Jeff Sessions (JS) recused himself from Russia debacle, JS is wishy washy on going after the Clinton’s and the Obozo’s, JS is going against a campaign promise about cannabis. I voted for President Trump and was hoping for JS as AG, but Jeff Sessions is a senile, old coot that needs to recuse himself of Attorney General. It’s not marijuana, mary jane, pot, weed… It’s cannabis, it grows in the dirt and it has medicinal values to it. It seems like JS has been bought and paid for by Big Pharma (BP)! Good job Jeff! It is ok, you can retire now, turd. Let’s see, what else grows in the dirt, Wheat, barley, hops…Oh that is used to make alcohol (processed). What happens when alcohol is abused? People get into car crashes, but what about when people abuse salt (Hypertension), suger (diabetes), and the numerous drugs BP and the Medical community pour down our throat? Liver failure, Heart attack, swelling of this or that. Oh sorry, you have liver failure from taking a pill BP gave you? No worries, there is a dialysis machine for that! Jeff Session’s has been bought and paid for by the Establishment! Just my two cents.

  • Sam Houston

    The entire unconstitutional war on drugs is a scam that has systematically destroyed the relationship between police and the community, when there is a war there must be an enemy , that enemy is the people and the constitution. The fake war on drugs has eroded freedoms destroyed families and communities and accomplished nothing positive what so ever !!

  • Dan Gonzalez

    The potheads are out in full force to protest Jeff Sessions. Marijuana has no medicinal value and all it does is fry people´s brains and make them schizophrenic, Marijuana has been de facto legal in Vancouver for two decades and now half of downtown is lost to those perpetually stoned bums. Do you idiots think those potheads will ever manage to do anything with their lives and become virtuous citizens? No, they will stay home all day getting high and collecting welfare. That scum should be executed by hanging- Lee Kwan yew style.

  • Vanessa Veneziano

    I wonder how Jeff Sessions is compromised. Is he a pervert too or something? I think he needs to lay off our basic rights and start looking at CIA & FBI and and get off our backs about cannabis. I wonder why he hasn’t been given the axe yet? He should be, as there are basic freedoms and drinking a cup of coffee is tantamount to a doobie in my book. We all have our ways of looking at things. Another great article from Mr. Stone, who if I ever met you I’d get us the best in the west (believe it’s Legion oil, or Monarch, not sure since I don’t imbibe since I work in the public sector). Maybe on one sabbactial one day, eh? I do my best living out here in liberal California, but the heat is getting to me, I have to say. I want our freedom back! Much love to all, & to our God-ordained President, and thank you again Mr. Stone .

  • lifeforpot

    On the first day of market trading for the New Year, CNBC interspersed programing with positive stories of the new California cannabis businesses. They covered broad range of the issues startups would face, but the common theme was prosperity and hope. Sam Masucci talked about the new marijuana ETF, Marcus Lemonis explored the marijuana business in Humbolt County for The Profit.

    I was ushering in the New Year trying to give hope to people serving life in prison for selling marijuana while Jane Wells, Kate Rogers and Aditi Roy were convincing listeners that California’s cannabis
    commerce would bring promised affluence. As the day wore on, the juxtaposition was as incredible as my conclusion– today’s cannabis business plan is yesterday’s marijuana conspiracy. Life without parole is death by imprisonment. The people I advocate for, nonviolent marijuana lifers will die in prison while a “new industry” in cannabis takes root.

    We hoped that this category of nonviolent prisoner would all receive commutations at the end of the last administration, but they did not. They are aging in Federal Prisons around the country while they watch the product they are incarcerated for become a main stream commodity and a source of profit for individuals as well as local and state governments.

    Part of the conundrum and the most interesting aspect is marijuana remains on the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970 as a Schedule 1 Drug. The characteristic of a Schedule 1 drug are: 1. The drug has a high potential for abuse. 2. The drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. 3.There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.
    1. This antiquated Schedule ranks marijuana as more dangerous than Oxycontin or Fentanyl.
    When criminal law cynically ignores the cultural reality, it can only lead to disrespect for the law and those who attempt to enforce it. According to Federal Code, All Cannabis Business Enterprises are Criminal.

    Marijuana prohibition costs 42 billion dollars per year to enforce. 2. There are up to 500,000 arrests per year by local, state and federal law enforcement. This is an enormous government program.
    3. Billions of tax dollars are wasted every year on an incoherent policy that could repair a lot of failing bridges. The fix isn’t complicated. Removing marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act’s Schedule and allowing it to be regulated like alcohol is the answer. States are moving in this direction regardless
    of federal law.

    The marijuana prisoners I advocate for are serving life because they were charged with “conspiracy” and became accountable for drugs sold by others, even people they had never met or known. Conspiracy charges hold them responsible for acts that occurred over a period of years and
    involve many people. Another common thread is they didn’t plead guilty and chose to exercise their right to a trial. Legal experts call it the trial penalty. Key witnesses are usually co-defendants who accept a plea and receive less prison time, government agents, and even witnesses that are testifying for a fee.

    These marijuana prisoners all have names and life stories. They have mothers and fathers,
    wives, husbands, siblings and children who all have suffered and wonder why there is no mercy. Their family time is spent traveling to a Federal Prison, being searched and processed, sometimes
    drug tested, then sitting in a large visiting room with only two hugs allowed and lunch from a vending machine. We are paying dearly for this in federal treasure and human dignity. I would like to tell them that they will have a chance to be home with their family before they die. They have been entrapped in a gigantic failed social experiment and their release would bring it all to a harmonious
    conclusion.

    These sentences are not fiscally responsible and are not compatible with our sense that we are a nation of compassion, mercy and justice. These nonviolent marijuana offenders with life need sentencing relief either through executive clemency or retroactive legislation.

    1. https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml
    2. https://www.forbes.com/2007/09/29/marijuana-laws-work-
    bizcx_qh_1001pot.html#4674b58b5fe8
    3. http://www.drugpolicy.org/do-people-still-get-arrested-and-punished-using-marijuana

    Beth Curtis MSW