Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly hinted that he might crack down on states that have defied federal prohibition by legalizing medical marijuana or recreational cannabis use. Those threats have worried a lot of marijuana activists, but former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele welcomes the crackdown because he thinks it will backfire almost immediately.
"In one sense, I'm like, 'Go ahead, Jeff. Do your thing, baby. Bring it. Because you'll have 18 states lining up to bring an immediate lawsuit pushing back on your crackdown,'" Steele told Civilized. "And that really blows up the conversation at the federal level."
Which is the last thing Sessions wants, since he once criticized President Obama for even discussing marijuana legalization while in office. But hearing more people than ever debate America's cannabis laws is nothing compared to the humiliation Sessions will face when he gets "smacked" in court.
"Whatever position the federal government has, the legal states look at that and they're yawning," Steele added. "People forget, we are not a democracy. We are a republic. We are a union comprised of 50 individual states that are autonomous unto themselves but have decided to form this union while respecting the autonomy of each individual state. The federal government often times forgets that. And that's why the states are here to remind them exactly where that line is for them. And when they cross it, they will be smacked. And this is one area where I think if the feds continue to try to press and overstep their bounds, then they will get smacked."
But the backlash will likely go even further than that, according to Steele, who said that a crackdown could actually speed up the process of repealing cannabis prohibition across the country.
"If he 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. 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."
And those changes could bring things to a head rapidly.
"If you get enough states that feel that they are being impeded, you get enough actions by the attorney general's office to go after growers or producers or manufacturers or the states themselves, more importantly, and yeah, you could bring this to a head in a matter of a year — not ten years from now," Steele said.
And even if Sessions avoids bringing things to a head with an ill-advised crackdown, Steele still thinks legalization is inevitable.
"It will happen," he said. "At the end of the day, it's gonna happen by virtue of the fact that as more and more states legalize it for medicinal or full use, there will be an enormous pressure brought by the banking system and by other institutions that the feds have put a chokehold on to lessen that chokehold because there's gonna be a hell of a lot of cash that's gonna get bottled up that the banks are gonna sit there and go, 'Wait a minute, dude. We're not gonna sit on the sidelines and not make money off of this too.'"
So a crackdown could ironically be the best thing to happen to the marijuana legalization movement. But even if Sessions holds back, the ground underneath him will continue to shift towards reform.