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Free Minds & Free Markets

A War on Recreational Marijuana Would Be a Nightmare (For Trump)

Going after recreational marijuana in states where it's legal would mean destroying jobs and businesses.

Claiming an ambiguous link between marijuana and opioid overdoses, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday that the Trump administration would renew the federal war on marijuana.

"I do believe you will see greater enforcement" of federal marijuana laws, Spicer said. "When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people."

There is no evidence that expanding access to legal marijuana has increased the use of prescription opioid or heroin. In fact, the relationship may be just the opposite.

But whatever. I'm more interested in what "greater enforcement" of federal marijuana laws would look like, considering how little appetite there is for doing it.

As Jacob Sullum has already reported, Quinnipiac released poll results yesterday showing that Americans overwhelmingly oppose federal interference in states where marijuana is legal. If raids were to resume, does that widely held sentiment translate into the phone-line-jamming outcry that nearly derailed Betsy DeVos' nomination? Maybe not nationally, but you can bet residents and Congressional delegations from marijuana states would make lots of noise. (Marijuana business owners are already expressing displeasure.)

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) told Bloomberg News yesterday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions told him before being confirmed that going after his state's marijuana industry is "not a priority of the Trump administration."

Speaking of Colorado: The state just wrapped up its third year of collecting taxes and fees on recreational pot. According to tax data, the combined state revenue from Colorado's marijuana industry has set a new record each year since implementation: $52.5 million in FY 2014-2015, $85 million in '15-'16, $127 million in '16-'17. While those figures include a 2.9 percent medical marijuana tax, the bulk of the money comes from a 10 percent sales and 15 percent excise tax on retail (read: recreational) pot.

Retail pot has also created 18,000 jobs in Colorado alone. Denver's industrial real estate market is thriving. Pueblo County has a pot-funded college scholarship program. "It is a very real industry sector in these states now," Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, tells me. "And there's no evidence of buyer's remorse on the part of voters." (Polling in Colorado confirms.)

Washington state has also made bank. California, which passed a legalization measure in 2016, is going to sell an ungodly amount of retail pot once it starts issuing licenses (the deadline for that is Jan. 1, 2018). Then there's Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, and Massachusetts. That's a lot of people to put out of business and a lot of state coffers to deplete.

Assuming we don't see the DEA and federal prosecutors go it alone--and they'd likely have to in most of those states--what opportunities are left for "greater enforcement"? While the number of federal sentences for marijuana has declined from 2012's 10-year peak of 6,992, in 2015--the most recent year for which the U.S. Sentencing Commission has data--3,543 people were still sentenced in federal court for marijuana offenses.

Hell, the number of federal simple possession cases--once pretty rare--increased 400% between 2008 and 2013. Of the 447 federal simple possession sentences handed out in 2008, 240 were for marijuana. In 2013, 2,169 cases (of 2,313 total) were marijuana-related.

Obviously, Congress should amend the Controlled Substances Act to recognize state marijuana laws. But the fact that it hasn't won't make it politically easy for Trump's DOJ to do more than Obama's did.

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  • Konima||

    Trump is eventually going to eventually start instituting libertarian policies, right? He's not authoritarian, insane, or simple-minded. I've been assured of this so many times by his Reason representatives.

  • Zeb||

    Dude, give it a rest. You are as annoying as the people you are bitching about.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    It's trying real hard to make people think it's real. It's not.

  • Konima||

    "It's trying real hard to make people think it's real. It's not."
    You're, what, the 10th person here claiming I'm pretending to be myself? What instinctive, subconscious machinations are occurring within your minds that lead all of you to come to the same conclusions in such a predictable fashion? Is it a coincidence that you all seem to share identical ideologies? You've been in the echo chamber too long, friends.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Most of those 10 people were also you. so the machinations weren't all that subconscious.

  • Konima||

    Oh, so your new theory is that I am also you? At least we're getting somewhere interesting now.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Your sockpuppetry has never been interesting, unfortunately.

  • Konima||

    That's a pathetic argument to fall back on. Do you think it makes you look sage or something?

    It must be interesting on some level, because you obviously remember my name. On the other hand, I find myself constantly forgetting your names. Wonder why.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    You could settle all the debate by providing some references to uphold your fantasy about Reason. Your obvious failure to do so is obvious.

  • Konima||

    Lay out what I specifically need which would lead the Trump tribe of you to leave forever and I will gladly produce whatever evidence or references you'd like. Actually, I'd be okay if you stayed, for the sake of debate, but you need to be honest about your true beliefs.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Ah yes, the old "Tulpa calls others Tulpa" gambit, another classic. Yawn.

  • Konima||

    I never said you are Tulpa. What are you reading? Even if you were, I don't recall who Tulpa is and I don't care. What is the point of going around claiming that everyone is someone else, anyways? Is this your not-so-subtle methodology of silencing dissent? I still haven't figured out the rationale behind this bit. All it does is put your own ignorance on display.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Sockpuppetry isn't "dissent," no matter how many socks spend no matter how many years trying to make that claim.

  • pan fried wylie||

    sockyears

  • Konima||

    I'd have to do this for a year straight in order to reach that level of annoyance.

  • CZmacure||

    I like how the comments here have been reduced to the three persistent trolls... trolling each other.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    It's romantic.

  • DOOMco||

    "Just bang already!"

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    But this is a nation of laws! Of LAWS, I tell you!

    Trumpistas told me so.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    I prefer it when the laws that are enforced have to do with restraining the power of the government and not restraining free people engaging in voluntary activities.

    But Trumpistas seem happy with the second, so I guess I should call them Fascists, which is more accurate.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Chill. This is Trump's opening position. Plenty of room to back away from this and still claim whatever he likes. The art of the deal amiright?

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Chill. This is Trump's opening position. Plenty of room to back away from this and still claim whatever he likes. The art of the deal amiright?


    "Look, if youse don't agree to what *I* want, I'm going to unleash hell on youse!"

    The art of the deal you can't refuse.

  • Jerryskids||

    Look, here's the thing: If, if.....uh, if, uh, there's like these laws about marijuana, see. And, uh, there's these other laws about, uh, other stuff, then there's, uh.....like, see, ok, ok. What I'm saying is, you know, maybe, if like, there was.....okay, so if there's law like about marijuana and stuff and then there's this dude who's all like "No way, man, we ain't having that stuff" and he's like all up in yo grill and stuff and you're like, "woah, dude, chill out" and he's like "we ain't havin the chronic up in here" and you're like just chillaxing and stuff and you're like you don't even know what's about to go down and stuff and like, how's somebody gonna like stop the dude from harshing our buzz, man?

  • Threedoor||

    The defining line always comes down to taxes. A libertarian would talk about freedom, a statist talks about how great the tax revenue is for government.

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    the number of federal simple possession cases--once pretty rare--increased 400% between 2008 and 2013. Of the 447 federal simple possession sentences handed out in 2008, 240 were for marijuana. In 2013, 2,169 cases (of 2,313 total) were marijuana-related.

    What the blood clot?

    Also, Riggs is back! WHY WASN'T I INFORMED?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

  • Crusty Juggler - #2||

    Nice!

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    I love that humanity has become so prosperous that people have time to waste making glorious crap like that.

  • Mike Riggs||

    Returned to the nest last week.

    Thanks for the warm welcome.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Riggsy!

    Fingers crossed Trump is not interested in this and shuts Sessions down. Thanks for the research, and keep up the good work.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    But the fact that it hasn't won't make it politically easy for Trump's DOJ to do more than Obama's did.


    But he's going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it! What makes you think he cannot put millions of Coloradans in Federal Prison and make them pay for it? Huh? What are you, a terrorist-lover or sumethin'?

  • Trigger Hippie||

    "Speaking of Colorado: The state just wrapped up its third year of collecting taxes and fees on recreational pot. According to tax data, the combined state revenue from Colorado's marijuana industry has set a new record each year since implementation: $52.5 million in FY 2014-2015, $85 million in '15-'16, $127 million in '16-'17. While those figures include a 2.9 percent medical marijuana tax, the bulk of the money comes from a 10 percent sales and 15 percent excise tax on retail (read: recreational) pot."

    This and the paragraphs following it are shitty arguments. It places the tax revenue generated by state approved marijuana consumption as a moral and legal justification for allowing the behavior; which is completely beside the libertarian position of 'my body, my choice, fuck off'.

    As an aside, I still believe a Trump administration will be slightly less authoritarian than Clinton's would have been, but anyone surprised by any and all drug related Sessions Aggressions is a delusional idiot.

  • Not a True MJG||

    When you're making arguments to legislators and bureaucrats, "my body my choice" is far, far below "tax money!" and "so many jobs!" in terms of persuasion.

  • Calidissident||

    I think it's relevant to mention it if we are discussing the consequences and effects of a crackdown and a potential backlash. The article isn't a philosophical piece about why marijuana laws are unjust, it's examining the impact of Trump's potential action. The tax revenue isn't a sell to libertarians, but it certainly is for the state government of Colorado, so I don't think it's objectionable to mention that when discussing said consequences. The same for the other arguments. Also, utilitarian arguments may not mean much to people who are already libertarians, but most people value them to one extent or another, so if you want to expand support beyond your existing base, they can be an effective way to bring in people who are just learning or on the fence about your ideology.

  • Trigger Hippie||

    "The tax revenue isn't a sell to libertarians, but it certainly is for the state government of Colorado, so I don't think it's objectionable to mention that when discussing said consequences. The same for the other arguments."

    True, I understand the practically of presenting that argument in those terms. But it's still a weak argument in regards to libertarianism.

    It would be nice if the staff upheld a truly libertarian stance on an issue regardl

  • Trigger Hippie||

    * regardless of political expediency. For a supposed libertarian magazine they sure like to play by statists rules.

  • croaker||

    Reason staff are as libertarian as the LP.

  • UVaGrad||

    I don't think it's a "moral and legal justification" so much as it is a "practical reason why this will be difficult to unwind."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "I do believe you will see greater enforcement" of federal marijuana laws, Spicer said.

    Uh, it really wouldn't be MAGA if there was not greater enforcement. Riggs, use your fucking head.

  • UVaGrad||

    Wait, when did Mike Riggs come back?

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Claiming an ambiguous link between marijuana and opioid overdoses,

    There is no evidence that expanding access to legal marijuana has increased the use of prescription opioid or heroin. In fact, the relationship may be just the opposite.

    But whatever.

    But whatever my ass. It's a lie, call it a lie.

  • Robert Chase||

    Sessions is about to close dispensaries and the nation's supposed journalists do not even realize how they ever came to be! Obama's personal, unstated policy allowed states to license the sale of cannabis (not anything in the Ogden or Cole memoranda); dispensaries were always hanging by a thread of presidential dispensation and that thread was severed on Jan. 20. There's no coming war or nightmare; the Feds can roll up state-licensed dispensaries in short order, without a huge expenditure of effort -- the Fascists are perfectly willing to inflilct heavy damage on the economies of states that voted Collaborationist too.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    the Feds can roll up state-licensed dispensaries in short order, without a huge expenditure of effort --

    I sincerely hope that states put up more of a fight, and with "resistance" the slogan of the day I can see that happening (if Clinton had won and tried the same thing, D states would roll over). Call up the fucking state national guard to protect dispensaries and growers.

  • MattyPants||

    As a Coloradan, it definitely won't be that easy. We have hundreds of growers across the state, not to mention legal designations for people to grow small amounts of plants (2 per resident) in their own homes so long as they do not sell their crop for cash.

    Sure, the Fed could attempt to close the industry down, but considering how well marijuana did before it was legalized, it isn't going away now. And, as statist a point as it may be, Colorado isn't going to let that tax revenue go without a fight.

  • croaker||

    It's not ambiguous. It's a consequence of legalizing marijuana while leaving everything else illegal.

    The drug gangs are now moving to a more profitable (illegal) substance.

  • IceTrey||

    No mention of the irony or is it hypocrisy that the IRS collects income taxes, in cash, from all of those illegal cannabis companies?

  • Pi Guy||

    Welcome back, Mike! Good article as was always the case in the old days. Could Balko be far behind? Missing those good old fashioned nut punches, too.

    Make Hit and Run Great Again!

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