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Jeff sessions and his outlandish claims about Marijuana

If someone had created a TV show featuring Donald Trump and his associates, it’s questionable as to whether anyone would have believed it could happen in real life, but happen it has. Mr Trump is the 45th President of the United States and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is the 84th Attorney General of the United States.

Who is Jeff Sessions?

Jeff Sessions studied and served in the military before making a name for himself in the legal profession. In 1981 he became U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, leaving the role in 1993 and entering politics as a Senator from Alabama in 1997. He held this position until his appointment as 84th Attorney General of the United States. From the very beginning, his selection for the role polarized opinion and was mired in controversy.

During his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions affirmed that he had never been in contact with the Russian government about Trump’s campaign - but it later emerged that he had. Session’s kept his own position, which is more than can be said for 46 United States Attorneys, whose firing he oversaw. Along with the closure of the National Commission on Forensic Science and thus put a stop to the Department's review of the forensic accuracy of closed cases. Session also recommended that President Trump fire (then) FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading the investigations into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump accepted the recommendation.

Sessions has been in office for less than a year and so far has:

Pursued a policy of seeking the highest level of criminal charges possible and worked to make it easier for state law enforcers to seize the property of those suspect of crime, but not convicted of it.

Threatened to withdraw federal funding from “sanctuary cities”, which do not cooperate with federal immigration policy.

Made controversial comments about a Hawaii's reaction to the Trump travel ban.

He has also taken a strong stance on marijuana.

What are his claims about Marijuana?

According to Jeff Sessions, marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin and “good people don’t smoke marijuana”. He has instigated a task force to investigate the connection between marijuana and violent crime and even though it has yet to report back, he has already attempted to roll back the legal protection which allows state authorities to permit the use (and therefore sale) of medical marijuana. In theory, there’s little he can do to enforce federal policy on states which have legalized medical marijuana and only slightly more he can in terms of recreational marijuana. In practice, however, he does have some leverage.

To begin with, he is pushing to make it easier for law enforcers to seize property from those who are merely suspected of crime rather than convicted of it. In theory, he could use this power to seize the assets of those selling cannabis legally and let them try to sue to get their property back (which would be a lengthy and expensive process). Rather than try to eradicate the whole industry, he could target a few high-profile individuals or companies in an attempt to persuade the others to shut up shop. He could also threaten to withdraw federal funds from states which permit the use of marijuana, as he has threatened to do with sanctuary cities. Sessions has fired an opening salvo to the states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington in which he expresses concerns over their regulation of the marijuana industry.

State leader’s responses to Jeff Session’s claims

While the states of Alaska, Oregon and Washington have already responded to Sessions’ letter, essentially telling him they think they’re doing just fine, thank you and questioning the evidence for his comments, the overall atmosphere amongst the states seems to be one of (stoic) calmness rather than panic. The fact of the matter is that Sessions owes his job to Donald Trump and while the latter might be very reluctant to remove Sessions, he will presumably be even more reluctant to risk his prospects for reelection in 2020.

During the last campaign, Trump used a very astute strategy and successfully manage to hold on to the Republican voter base while enticing over people who might otherwise have been inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton, but all the effort he put in only managed to secure him a very narrow victory. He will presumably be expecting the 2020 campaign to be fought with at least as much vigour and will want to avoid the danger of handing the Democrats a popular rallying cry to use against him, particularly given that there is currently a joke doing the rounds of the internet to the effect that even amongst Republicans, cannabis is more popular than Donald Trump. Trump has conspicuously failed to show any enthusiasm for Sessions’ crusade and has even previously commented that he feels that the issue of marijuana is best dealt with at state level. It therefore seems highly unlikely that he will let Sessions continue this crusade unfettered.

MSNL Team / 16th October 2017

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