Marijuana

The Justice Department Is Asking Legal Marijuana States to Do the Impossible

Sessions wants Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to do something that can't be done.

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What is Jeff Sessions planning to do with legal pot? CREDIT: DOJ

We've been waiting months for the Justice Department to announce its plans for recreational marijuana markets in states that legalized the drug contra federal law. Yesterday, HuffPost published a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee that provides some (but not much) clarity.

In a letter dated July 24, Sessions asks Inslee to "please advise as to how Washington plans to address" a 2016 report from the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area that claimed Washington has failed to comply with the eight enforcement priorities laid out in the "Cole memorandum," issued by Pres. Obama's Justice Department in August 2013 and named for Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

To recap, the Cole memo stated that post-legalization in Colorado and Washington, federal law enforcement agencies remained committed to:

  • Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors
  • Preventing gangs and organized crime from profiting off marijuana sales
  • Preventing states that had legalized marijuana from exporting the drug to other states
  • Preventing marijuana vendors in legalization states from engaging in other illegal activities or working with other illegal drugs
  • Preventing violence in the cultivation of marijuana
  • Preventing drugged driving
  • Preventing marijuana grows on public land
  • Preventing marijuana use and distribution on federal land

The 2016 NW HIDTA report Sessions references found that Washington has been unable to realize several preventions: marijuana cultivated in Washington has been found in 43 other states; 90 percent of Washington's recreational industry's public safety violations in the first year of legalization involved either sale to minors or employment of minors in the marijuana industry; drugged driving has increased substantially; and state regulators have had difficulty keeping track of all marijuana produced in the state.

Sessions instructs Inslee to "please advise as to how Washington plans to address the findings in the Northwest HIDTA report, including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors."

HuffPost's Matt Fermer spoke to government officials in both Washington and Oregon who say they're doing everything they can to address those issues. Colorado has since day one made discouraging teen use and prosecuting diversion a priority.

Governors from those three states, and Alaska, recently sent a letter to Sessions explaining they are "committed to implementing the will of our citizens and have worked cooperatively with our legislatures to establish robust regulatory structures that prioritize public health and public safety, reduce inequitable incarceration and expand our economies."

It's not as if they're taking this whole "legal pot" thing lightly. But it's likely they know, and Sessions likely knows, carrying out fully Cole's enforcement priorities is an impossible task. Laws themselves will not eradicate forbidden behaviors. Laws discourage those behaviors and punish people who engage in them.

Alcohol is tightly regulated across the country, yet 60 percent of 18-year-olds have reported trying alcohol at least once. Is that evidence of negligence or carelessness on the part of state regulators? Of course not.

The same goes for diversion of marijuana. Marijuana from Colorado and Washington travels far and wide. But this has been the case since California passed the first state medical marijuana law in 1996. Laws against diversion don't prevent diversion, they simply allow states to punish people who divert. People have trafficked cigarettes from the southeast U.S. to high-tobacco-tax states in the northeast for years, yet the DOJ is not sending ominous letters to Virginia or North Carolina.

Jacob Sullum and I have both written about the challenge of assessing drugged driving impairment in marijuana users. The National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently acknowledged that "current testing methods do not necessarily accurately reflect impairment." The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Traffic Area has admitted that finding THC in a driver's blood after an accident "does not necessarily prove that marijuana was the cause of the incident." NIDA recently issued a request for proposals for a better system for detecting and measuring marijuana impairment.

Does Sessions think Washington can simply conjure that technology out of thin air?

We don't yet know what Sessions has planned for federal marijuana enforcement, because his task force has yet to publish its recommendations. But if this letter to Gov. Inslee is any indication, he might be planning to ask legal marijuana states to meet an impossible goal.

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  1. Preventing gangs and organized crime from profiting off marijuana sales

    Since marijuana sales are taxed in these states, that one is right out.

    1. So cops are no longer making pot busts or using forfeiture on pot dealers/users. Does that count?

  2. We don’t yet know what Sessions has planned for federal marijuana enforcement, because his task force has yet to publish its recommendations. But if this letter to Gov. Inslee is any indication, he might be planning to ask legal marijuana states to meet an impossible goal.

    Look, it’s been amply established that Sessions is the biggest asshole since goatse.cx.

    1. Someone with better Photoshop skills than me should take a copy of the goatse pic and superimpose Jeff Sessions face over the gaping asshole.

    2. “Might” is the important word here, because what Sessions is doing is nothing other than asking how legal pot states plan to prevent federal drug crimes for which the state isn’t even required to enforce!

      Rigg’s suggestion Sessions “might be” asking states for the “impossible” seems like an overreaction to me (Trump derangement syndrome perhaps). It remains to be seen if Sessions sends federal agents to start finding, arresting, and prosecuting people for federal drug crimes regarding marijuana in legal pot states.

  3. “Alcohol is tightly regulated across the country, yet 60 percent of 18-year-olds have reported trying alcohol at least once. Is that evidence of negligence or carelessness on the part of state regulators? Of course not.”

    Cracking down on regulators in legal weed states to override them is known as “It’s Miller Time” at the DOJ.

  4. If you don’t want to get arrested, don’t break the law, it is that simple.

    1. As, I miss poor old Tulpa.

      1. *Aw

        One of these days ima gunna turn the fucking autocorrect off.

    2. Someone never read Three Felonies A Day.

  5. Alcohol is tightly regulated across the country, yet 60 percent of 18-year-olds have reported trying alcohol at least once. Is that evidence of negligence or carelessness on the part of state regulators? Of course not.

    Of course, you’re not Jeff Sessions.

  6. To recap, the Cole memo stated that post-legalization in Colorado and Washington, federal law enforcement agencies remained committed to:

    Getting the Lynx posted on time?

    1. I’d definitely expect a federal agency to fuck up the timely posting of links.

      1. Well, sure — but they remain committed to it!

      2. Theory: It’s Mike Riggs’s day to post the PM Links, but he’s too busy punching dudes in the face until they apologize, and then pleasuring their girlfriends.

        1. Got a link?

    2. I’m pretty sure that Christian Britschgi was delayed in posting the links as he tried to figure out how to spell his last name.

  7. Laws themselves will not eradicate forbidden behaviors.

    Blasphemy! Laws are magic! /sarc

    People have trafficked cigarettes from the southeast U.S. to high-tobacco-tax states in the northeast for years, yet the DOJ is not sending ominous letters to Virginia or North Carolina.

    Let’s not give that shithead any ideas.

  8. “Does Sessions think Washington can simply conjure that technology out of thin air?”

    Do you expect me to talk?

    No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

  9. Speaking of alcohol, that asshole looks like he’s enjoy a mint julep or a billion in his time.

  10. Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors FAILED
    Preventing gangs and organized crime from profiting off marijuana sales FAILED
    Preventing states that had legalized marijuana from exporting the drug to other states FAILED
    Preventing marijuana vendors in legalization states from engaging in other illegal activities or working with other illegal drugs FAILED
    Preventing violence in the cultivation of marijuana FAILED(?)
    Preventing drugged driving FAILED
    Preventing marijuana grows on public land FAILED
    Preventing marijuana use and distribution on federal land FAILED

    1. So, just a straight up troll, huh? Life that pathetic?

    2. SoberPhobic, I have to ask… how has prohibition done any better?

      The “fails” you posted could be shown as an improvement. Drugged driving. the Rocky Mountain task force’s data actually shows is that less than 1% of dui offenses were marijuana only. That the “8%” increase in those offenses represented less than 1% of dui arrests both prior & after legalization. This is easily explained by the fact that they are looking harder for it, expecting it, improved drug recognition, & no longer substituting a possession arrest for a dui arrest. Same can & likely would be said for “product” being found outside legal borders, if your searching every car coming out of the state expecting it, your going to find more. Interesting, the percentage vs stop & search shows more stops and more searches with percentage of “finds” less. It’s all data manipulation and looking for mountains with a magnifying glass.

      If you read closely the task force’s report, completed by groups that specifically profit from prohibition, you will see the manipulation of the statistics carefully worded in their descriptions, not to mention the carefully missed historical data, that is conventionally omitted when it suits them. Any and all omissions of this manipulation are buried in the fine print, or worded so that it’s omission is down played.

      Have you read the complete report? Have you compared the data & accounted for things like 8% increase yet omitting the historical data that it’s based off of? I have.

  11. Yep, looks like it’s time for Big Jeff to rally the Drug Warriors, swoop down into those hippy-dominated States and kick some ass. Make America Straight Again.

  12. It’s the feds’ problem if “federal law enforcement agencies remained committed to” those things. Maybe they shouldn’t commit to things they can’t deliver on. The governor should tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine. The Republicans have used anti-federal rhetoric for decades when it was regulations they didn’t like. They don’t get to pick other stuff that is not in the constitution.

  13. What happened to the little pygmy twat getting fired?

    1. He’s going after the “leakers” of confidential government information. You know the stuff being leaked that shows the illegality of the Trunp administration… you know the stuff that actually falls in line closer to protection from the whistle blower act…

      1. Well, none of the stuff leaked so far shows anything illegal in the current administration, so I’m not really willing to give you too much credence.

      2. Most of the “leaks” so far haven’t been of the “criminal” variety, just the “embarrassing”.

        That said, I’ve seen numerous stories that leaks are how staffers get President Trump to pay attention to important topics, because he doesn’t pay attention to Brookings, but does pay attention to news shows.

        In essence, the argument is that the Trump administration is so “leaky” because normal channels for communicating to the president are failing. If this theory is true then stopping the leaks means President Trump will be even more impervious to bad news and reality.

        So we’ll see.


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  15. Sessionss is lost in the modern age he now finds himself in. He is determined to go back in time 40 years and refight the drug wars all over again. I guess he wants to lose as well. The American War on Drugs was never about drugs, it was a war on the American people. Nixon wanted a way to punish blacks and the anti war left. They could not figure a way to make it illegal to be black or against the war so they went after cannabis, thinking this would be a way to hold these groups in check.
    Sessionss is so lost he sent a pro DARE letter to that organization, praising it. This in spite of the fact that the program did more harm than good. It was found to just make children aware that there was something forbidden that required more information. In other words it caused more interest in drugs than fear.

  16. “People have trafficked cigarettes from the southeast U.S. to high-tobacco-tax states in the northeast for years, yet the DOJ is not sending ominous letters to Virginia or North Carolina.”

    The two most deadly & dangerous of ALL drugs, the hard drugs tobacco & alcohol, have been unconstitutionally exempt from the CSA [21 U.S.C. ? 802(6)] in violation of the Equal Protection Clause since its inception in 1970; yet in all this time Reason has never demanded that:
    1) tobacco & alcohol be classified & regulated as the schedule I & II controlled substances that these hard drugs are by definition in the CSA;
    or
    2) the CSA be repealed and the DEA abolished.

  17. To which the states replied: Kiss my ass.
    The federal laws you think we should be worried about are now unconstitutional, because you still list the mighty weed as schedule one despite medical use. Call me when you have your own house in order.

  18. We should all petition the DOJ to prove that their draconian drug laws can do all of these same things, because guess what… we all know they can’t.

    They’ve lost the war on drugs, but they refuse to admit it and move on.

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