Fear and Loathing: The New Federal Marijuana Policy


Fear and Loathing the New Federal Marijuana Policy

By Sean McCaffrey

When President Obama’s Justice Department signed a memo in 2013 that told U.S. Attorneys to relax their prosecution of recreational and medical marijuana crimes, two things happened. Conservatives, afraid of pot-smoking hippies and drug trafficking cartels taking to the streets in uncontrollable masses, mostly just got mad. Liberals, living in states that already had medical or recreation marijuana laws, mostly just got high. The 2013 memo’s only real problem wasn’t its effect on decreasing prosecution for drug trafficking cases or creating more freedoms for citizens living in states with already-legalized weed. The real problem was that the memo was a confusing half-measure that invited further political tinkering under President Trump, and tinkering with federal drug enforcement policy is exactly what he plans to do.

Unexpectedly, Trump’s administration says it’s going to be more aggressive in pursuing marijuana laws shortly after recently announcing it’s going to stop protecting transgender bathroom use. During Sean Spicer’s press conference, no specifics were given and the Justice Department declined to comment on the “greater enforcement” of federalized drug laws. Aside from Trump’s inconsistent stance on states’ rights, what can be expected from this new announcement? Not a lot.

For the average American, more aggressive enforcement of federal drug laws will mean very little. To incur federal law enforcement interest of any real magnitude, a user would have to be transporting a considerable amount across state lines or national borders, or be using marijuana within a Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction. So, unless you’re a drug trafficker or using marijuana while living, traveling, or visiting in federal property, this policy change likely won’t affect you.

However, even if you are afraid of the new administration kicking out marijuana users along with illegal immigrants, the source of this chaos didn’t start in Washington D.C.. Stuart Taylor, writing for the Brookings Institute, said that due to national pressure, the federal government has been trying to make up for the lack of state led organizational implementation in marijuana laws.

“The crackdowns were apparently spurred in part by a sense that the medical marijuana industry was spinning out of control.”

So, instead of taking to the streets with hate and discontent about policy coming down Trump’s administration, maybe it’s time to picket your own state capitol and write to your own state legislators about marijuana governance.

Instead of reacting impulsively towards what was once regarded as a highly dangerous substance, John Hudak, also working with the Brookings Institute, thinks that the time is right for a presidential administration to really invest itself in thought and reflection about this social issue. The lack of consistent guidance and leadership exhibited by past administrations presents an opportunity for President Trump to bring people together with clear policies that encompass the entirety of the American population. Good policy, even in an area dealing with marijuana, could set precedent bringing individual liberties and responsibilities back into favor.


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