Attorney General Jeff Sessions might get an early Christmas present this year from Congress, which could soon remove the only regulation preventing Sessions from unleashing the DEA on states that have legalized medical marijuana. But despite that threat, a defiant Democratic rep says, "Let 'em try."
That's the message Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR) shared with Politico last week as the potential crackdown loomed over the medical marijuana industry. Even though 30 states and Washington DC have legalized medicinal cannabis use, all forms and uses of marijuana remain illegal under federal law. The only thing protecting those states is a budget rider preventing the DEA from spending any money on enforcing prohibition in jurisdictions that have legalized medical marijuana. Without that amendment, there's nothing to stop Sessions from going after businesses, doctors and even patients involved in the medical marijuana industry.
And that amendment has to be renewed with every federal budget. Which means if the rider is left out of the spending bill that's due by this Friday, or if the government shuts down because they couldn't agree on a budget, then it's open season on medical marijuana states. And since Attorney General Sessions has repeatedly called on Congress to drop that amendment, it seems unlikely that he'll pass up the opportunity to prosecute those states as soon as he gets the chance.
While some dread the possibility of a full-scale crackdown, others are welcoming the long-awaited confrontation with Sessions. Especially Blumenauer. “Part of me just thinks: Let ‘em try," he told Politico. "There will [be] such a ferocious backlash.”
Meanwhile, Morgan Fox — Communications Manager for the Marijuana Policy Project — is calling Sessions' bluff. “There’s no way that Sessions can start rolling back medical marijuana policies or attacking patients and providers without looking like the bad guy,” he told Politico.
And they have good reason to feel optimistic about the showdown, which could be a blessing in disguise for the legalization movement, according to Michael Steele. The former Chairman of the Republican National Committee says that a crackdown could backfire so badly that it could lead to an end of cannabis prohibition.
"If [Sessions] does this, then he's gonna be in court, which, in my view, is the last thing this administration or Jeff Sessions would want — to have a court rule that what the states are doing is right and it's within their purview under the constitution, and the federal government has no business dictating to them what they can and cannot do in this area because this is an area that's reserved for the states," Steele told Civilized last September. "Because then, that Pandora's box is open for the federal government They're gonna be forced to conform and change their laws on this matter."
That means Sessions could ironically end marijuana prohibition by trying to enforce it. So that rider might not actually be protecting legal states so much as preventing Sessions from a national embarrassment that would define his legacy as attorney general. So to use Steele's words, "Go ahead, Jeff. Do your thing, baby. Bring it."