*The US Attorney General recently made news for something not usually noteworthy. Jeff Sessions announced that he would enforce the existing marijuana laws.
My kneejerk reaction is that this is another episode of everyone’s favorite drama President Trump’s Administration Undoes All the Good Obama Did. But that isn’t particularly fair. While I believe the federal marijuana statutes to be misguided, it is hardly fair to criticize the Attorney General for doing his job. In fact Sessions’ announcement is only news because of what the previous administration did which was much more significant.
My secondary reaction is that the federal government is superior to the state governments. So while many states have taken steps to legalize some form of marijuana usage within their borders, those attempts have been a bit foolhardy because the federal laws ultimately outweigh the state laws. This was decided 150 years ago with the Civil War and I am not willing to change that precedent. Combining these two reactions paints, what I would label, a negative picture of the future for those in the supply or consumption side of the marijuana industry. But take a closer look.
My tertiary reaction is that this is the beginning of the end of marijuana criminalization form multiple reasons. First the people in Congress at this point have all come of age since the 1960s and therefore have used the drug themselves or know someone who has used the drug and still been able to operate as a productive member of society. The old narrative that marijuana will undermine a person’s drive and productivity has been thoroughly contradicted. Because of this marijuana, I believe, will begin/continue to be treated like many other mind altering (but legal) substances.
Second, the people in the states where marijuana is being used with some degree of legality will demand that their legislators decriminalize it so that they can continue doing what they’re doing. This is a grassroots (I couldn’t help it) movement waiting to happen. And it is bound to be successful because the people who will be advocating for its legalization nationally have already been successful and know how to play this game.
Third, the country in general is experiencing a time of significant cultural change. In the last decade people have been overall mature enough to realize that the citizenship privilege of marriage should apply to homosexual relationships and that doing so did not harm or undermine heterosexual marriages. Likewise legalizing marijuana does not undercut laws for other drugs. Different things can be nominally in the same category (drugs or marriage) but their details will determine how society views and regulates them. The details matter. Similarly the acceptance of the LGBTQ (forgive me if I omitted any categories) community is indicative of an acceptance of lifestyles that are non-standard or previously unknown. Therefore marijuana users will be seen as just another subgroup in the mosaic that is American society.
So don’t get upset at Sessions for doing his job. Instead accept that this is the catalyst for a change in national policy.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.