Guy W. Farmer: Panic in Potlandia

Potheads and stoners almost went into collective cardiac arrest early this month when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he intends to enforce our nation’s drug laws. “Omigod! How can the attorney general do such a cruel and heartless thing?” the national pot chorus whined.

And the answer is: Easy, because Sessions took an oath to enforce federal laws, including drug and immigration laws, and that’s exactly what he intends to do, no matter how much money Big Marijuana and the illegal immigration lobby spend to stop him from doing his sworn duty. Go get ’em, Jeff.

With the stroke of a pen Sessions rescinded a series of Obama era legal memos that gave state-licensed pot shops a pass from prosecution under federal anti-drug laws. At this point it’s important to note ex-President Obama’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Health and Human Services Department (HHS) confirmed marijuana as a Schedule One dangerous drug.

The Wall Street Journal recently summarized this clash between federal and state drug laws in an editorial titled “Marijuana Candor.” “Attorney General Sessions is being lambasted as the uncool parent in Washington ... for rescinding an Obama Administration directive that decriminalized marijuana in states (including Nevada) that have legalized the drug,” the editorial said. “But even if you’re a legalizer, you should give the AG some credit for forcing a debate on the rule of law that Congress should settle.”

That last point is important because the rule of law is at stake in this federal vs. state legal debate. Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell, a respected attorney, repeatedly cited the rule of law in voting to commercialize “recreational” pot in Carson, but failed to mention marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law, which trumps (no pun intended) state laws. So what about the rule of law?

“Social mores are changing, and a majority of Americans support legalizing pot,” the Wall Street Journal editorial concluded, “but instead of ... blaming Mr. Sessions, legalizers in Congress ought to have the courage of their convictions and try to decriminalize pot nationwide.” So if Nevada senators and congressional representatives think legalized pot is good for America, they should vote for it, thereby resolving the conflict between state and federal laws.

I don’t think legalized pot is good for America, and neither does my friend Jim Hartman, a Genoa attorney who knows more about marijuana policy than the people running Nevada’s recreational pot program.

“Nevada was among four states to ‘legalize’ recreational marijuana in 2016 by passing an initiative written and promoted by the commercial marijuana industry,” Hartman wrote in a letter to Nevada newspaper editors. “Immediately following the election, an ‘unholy alliance’ of medical marijuana licensees and Nevada politicians (including Gov. Sandoval) joined together in an unprecedented heedless rush to a July 1, 2017, ‘Early Start’ date for recreational marijuana sales ... Nevada’s wild ride to ‘Early Start’ resulted in a national embarrassment with a self-created ‘pot emergency’ declared by Gov. Sandoval,” who went for the money rather than taking a more cautious approach to assure proper licensing and enforcement rules and regulations were in place.

Although the governor nominally opposed recreational pot during the 2016 election campaign and 13 of the state’s 17 counties, including Carson, voted against legalizing recreational pot, Sandoval and his clueless Tax Commission rushed headlong into what one newspaper called “total mayhem.” Or was it “reefer madness?” Ahem.

I agree with Hartman, who said Attorney General Sessions should be commended for upholding the rule of law and putting the dangers of marijuana ahead of politics and profits.

Guy W. Farmer worked on anti-drug programs in seven countries during his diplomatic career.


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