How Marijuana is Going To Become Bipartisan
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How Marijuana is Going To Become Bipartisan
Posted by CN Staff on June 07, 2018 at 12:00:12 PT
By Paul Waldman
Source: Washington Post
Washington, D.C. -- When Jeff Sessions became attorney general, he had two main policy goals: crack down on immigration, and restart the War on Drugs. The former is one of the main reasons why he still has a job; as mad as President Trump might be that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Trump loves what Sessions is doing on immigration. The latter isnít something Trump seems to care much about. Heís all for punitive drug policies, but itís not as important to him as, say, whether black athletes are kneeling during the national anthem.But Sessions is not only making progress on drugs, heís bringing Democrats and Republicans together ó to oppose him.
Today, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (a Democrat) and Sen. Cory Gardner (a Republican) introduced a new bill called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would essentially allow states to pass their own marijuana laws without interference from the federal government. Hereís a one-page explanation from the House sponsors, and hereís the bill text.ďItís the Attorney General who gave us the impetus to bring our colleagues together to introduce this law,Ē Warren said at the press conference announcing the proposal.Most directly, itís a consequence of an action Sessions took in January, when he rescinded an Obama administration policy that directed U.S. Attorneys not to prosecute people complying with state laws on medical or recreational cannabis. But the STATES Act goes farther than reinstating that policy, because even if federal agents werenít busting down the doors of dispensaries, the nascent marijuana industry still exists in a legal grey area that makes doing business very difficult.Thatís because even if you arenít worried about getting arrested, if you run a marijuana business thatís legal in your state, youíre still constrained by federal law. Most importantly, the financial system is largely closed off to you. Since your business is illegal under federal law, you probably wonít be able to get business loans, open a bank account, or take credit card payments. Youíll have to pay federal taxes, but you wonít be able to deduct the same expenses other businesses do.ďThis is a public safety issue,Ē said Sen. Gardner, because marijuana businesses are forced to hold and move large quantities of cash, requiring them to hire armed guards and making them vulnerable to robbery. So the STATES Act exempts businesses that are complying with their state laws (and meeting a few other requirements) from the Controlled Substances Act, which means theyíd be able to enter the legitimate financial system.This issue presents an interesting array of cross-cutting ideological considerations. Conservatives often advocate that the federal government should do as little as possible, and as much power and authority as possible should be devolved to the states. Mean liberals like me have often charged that this isnít a sincere belief, but is instead a justification they trot out only when thereís a federal policy they donít like anyway. They want the states to be able to impose onerous work requirements on citizens to get health coverage through Medicaid, but they arenít too happy when states decide that their local police departments arenít going to act as deputies for ICE.But hereís a case where they can put their federalism where their mouth is, not to mention demonstrate their love of entrepreneurship. Sen. Gardner noted at the press conference today that he opposed the Colorado initiative that legalized cannabis in the state in 2012, but said he believes that states should be free establish their own policies that arenít hindered by the federal government.The truth is that while Gardner is a fairly conservative guy, heís also a savvy politician who understands his constituents. Not only do about two-thirds of Americans support legalization ó a number that has been growing steadily ó Gardner said that if they held the Colorado initiative again today, it would probably pass by an even larger margin.That two-thirds number is important. It shows that while this is still an issue that roughly breaks down along Democratic vs. Republican lines, there are going to be many more Republican lawmakers, especially in swing states, who are going to decide that supporting legalization is a wise move to make. And if they canít bring themselves to go that far, they could get behind something like the STATES Act, which would enable them to simultaneously say on one hand that they still believe marijuana is an evil weed that leads to depraved acts like eating ice cream and listening to music, but on the other hand that if itís what their constituents want then they arenít going to stand in the way, and that the businesses involved should at least be able to operate according to the same rules as everyone else.What that means is that over time, the issue of marijuana could become, believe it or not, bipartisan. Yes, most of the opposition will still reside among Republicans, especially older voters. Polls show a clear correlation between age and support for legalization; in this Pew poll, for instance, 70 percent of millennials supported it, compared to only 35 percent of the Silent Generation, those born before 1945. But that generation is dying off, and some polls show a majority of even Republicans favoring legalization.Today Gardner said that he had talked with Trump about the STATES Act, and he implied that Trump was at least receptive to the idea. With a few more Republicans on board, you could see it passing in 2019, and even if Trump opposed it, it could become law in 2021 if thereís a different president in office then. The more that the cannabis industry becomes a legitimate part of the economy, the more normalized it will be and the more difficult it would be to undo.And thatís how a once contentious, partisan issue becomes bipartisan, and eventually ceases to be an issue at all. No matter how mad it would make Jeff Sessions. Paul Waldman is an opinion writer for the Plum Line blog.Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Paul WaldmanPublished: June 7, 2018Copyright: 2018 Washington Post CompanyContact: letters Website: URL: -- Cannabis Archives 
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