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January 8, 2018

The Marijuana Merry-Go-Round

Jason Miller

A lot has been made recently of United States Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to rescind an Obama era executive memo by Deputy Attorney General James Cole that had adopted a federal policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.


The Cole memo was disseminated throughout the Justice Department shortly after August 29, 2013. In it, the Justice Department recognized that marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.


The memo did, however, give guidance to federal prosecutors who could choose to use their allotted resources elsewhere so long as the states did not hinder other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution to minors, or the prosecutorial targeting of cartels.


The federal outlaw of marijuana is still on the books today. Many marijuana-friendly states adopted laws allowing for medicinal and recreational use of marijuana knowing full well that the federal statues on marijuana was in contradiction to their own.


This initiated memo on non-interference with state marijuana laws is yet another example of how executive rule through bureaucratic fiat is a calamitous way to govern. The United States is a nation of laws. Our nation was never designed to be overwhelmingly governed with executive memos. At least not until the Obama Administration.


A bipartisan reaction by members of Congress, like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D), formally have chided Mr. Sessions for his decision to rescind the Cole memo this past Thursday. They were joined in their chorus of outrage by talking head cable news stock analysts who saw companies related to marijuana production take a nose dive on Wall Street shortly after the announcement.


Weed Inc. (ticker sign BUDZ), a real estate company that buys land and develops marijuana cultivation centers in marijuana-friendly states, plunged 17% at one point on Friday. It ended the day down by 6%.


I can’t help but shake my head as politicians like Senator Wyden say outlandish things. "(President) Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies. Now he's breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. Once again, the Trump Administration is doubling down on protecting states' rights only when they believe the state is right."


Would you care to hear a novel idea Senator Widen? Why not pass a law to legalize marijuana? I mean, that’s what you’re paid for, right? You seem to think that an overwhelming number of Americans support it, right?


Congress can solve this problem. Congress can override a presidential veto. Why not have it out once and for all? Congress needs to do its job. It needs to provide clarity. The growing disconnect of opposing state and federal public policy must be addressed. It’s bad for business. It’s bad for law enforcement, and it’s genuinely bad for the United States.


Am I for the complete no holds barred legalization of marijuana use? The answer to that is an unequivocally NO. As marijuana relates to public safety, I remain unconvinced as to the total harmlessness the drug has on our society while in recreational use.


I don’t want an airline pilot, railroad engineer or a company bus driver to be high as a kite on the job. I don’t want heavy equipment operators recreationally using shortly before they arrived for work. Every human being’s biochemistry is different. To say the effects of marijuana are the same for everyone is a patently false statement.


I do, however, believe that the marijuana plant does have a medicinal purpose. The science on that matter is crystal clear. I think any plant that can be processed and refined to benefit the sick should be legal to grow strictly under that construct. Keep in mind that morphine can be prescribed, and it is also illegal for recreational use.


Why does the marijuana issue need to be a zero-sum game? The answer is because our Congress lacks the ability to address the substance. Congressman and Congresswomen instead decry the enforcement of the present law instead of writing a new law on the matter.


The American people deserve a clear and defined public policy on marijuana use. I’m for the rule of law. Until a clear law is written, we are all riding a marijuana merry-go-round as federal, state, and local governments go around and around in the circle of blame.


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