That Nefarious DOJ

A number of the tantrums thrown by Trump and his Congressional enablers have focused on imaginary conspiracies at the Department of Justice–especially the FBI. They accuse a so-called “deep state” of waging a “bogus” Russia “witch hunt.”

It’s a hard sell, because it is so obviously defensive horseshit. Besides, any “deep state” worth having  would take on Jeff Sessions, who is arguably an obscenity with no redeeming social value.

Sessions’ racist past had been amply documented prior to his appointment (back when the GOP cared about such things, it cost him a federal judgeship). He has been enthusiastic about Trump’s hard line on immigration; re-instituted widely criticized asset forfeiture laws; threatened to withhold criminal justice funds from Sanctuary cities; refused to allow DOJ to engage in oversight of police departments –even those with which it has current consent decrees; and rolled back everything from voting rights enforcement to protections for transgender citizens.

Now he’s threatening to reverse Eric Holder’s  policy of respecting state-level prerogatives when it comes to marijuana policy. Per the Brookings Institution:

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions opted to end a more than four-year-old policy that granted a safe haven for state-legal marijuana companies (and consumers) to engage in the cultivation, processing, sale, possession, and use of cannabis under tightly regulated conditions. This policy, known as the Cole Memo, was initially enacted during the Obama administration, in response to Colorado and Washington legalizing adult-use cannabis in 2012. The Cole Memo effectively told federal prosecutors not to bring cannabis-related cases in states that have legalized if and only if companies and consumers abide by a state-provided regulatory system and do not engage in other bad acts like engaging with drug cartels or selling to children.

Has the policy been perfect? No. Of course, no policy is. However, the Cole Memo did provide a system by which cannabis was no longer sold only by unregulated dealers and/or drug cartels. It provided safeguards and promoted the testing of products. It put states on notice to develop robust regulatory systems. It allowed an industry to move out of the shadows and into a system that taxed and regulated its products.

The Brookings analysis illustrates the utter stupidity of this decision. Ending these safeguards puts people at risk for adulterated product and increases ease of access for underage users. Studies show that legal access to marijuana decreases both underage use and opiod addiction. (Not that evidence has ever been a big part of this argument; our intrepid drug warriors have long ignored overwhelming data showing that weed is  far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.)

Sessions’ decision is a windfall for drug dealers (as the Brookings’ report notes, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions will find a lot of opponents to his decision today. But hey, at least he’ll have the support of drug dealers.”)  And it will be costly for taxpayers.

Chasing after the thousands of legal marijuana growers, processers, and dispensaries and the tens of thousands of people they employ will cost DEA significant amounts of federal tax dollars. Add to that the costs US Attorneys will incur prosecuting those individuals and representing the government on appeals.

Fortunately for Democrats running in 2018, this isn’t just stupid policy, it is terrible politics. As Daily Kos explained:

If Democrats are smart, they will finally nationalize the pot issue, and its impact could spread through the entire map. The more young voters turn out, the bigger the Democratic landslide will be. And a great step toward making that happen would be full-throated Democratic support for full legalization at the federal level. Heck, leave it up to the states to decide for themselves! But the feds need to get out of the business of banning marijuana. And as far as political calculations go, there is little downside to Democrats. The public supports recreational legalization by 2-1 margins, and medicinal legalization by 9-1 margins or even higher.

In the real world–the one that no one in this administration inhabits– insisting that marijuana is illegal won’t stop its production and distribution. It will keep states from imposing sensible regulations that keep it safe and out of the hands of minors, and it will prevent states from generating substantial funds by taxing it.

Where’s that “deep state” when you need it?


  1. Take the word “marijuana” out of this piece and substitute the words “gun control” or “body part selling” and see where you are on the subject of state’s rights.

  2. Ms. Kennedy – I know it is always said, “Oh you can’t sue the Government for that!” Well – isn’t it possible to set a precedent and SUE the United States Presidential Administration for BREECH OF PUBLIC TRUST? At the very least we should bring him before the Hague for CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY…. I am serious? You’re the Lawyer… any ideas short of dragging the clown and his clown show kicking and screaming from the White House and tarring and feathering the whole lot of them?

  3. I’m thinking about the prevention of medical uses for cannabis (and hemp plants) and wondering how other sources of medications, many of which are controlled substances, are allowed to be grown or produced. Controlled substances are those medications which are also “street drugs” and now highly publicized in the opioid epidemic. These drugs produce profits to “drug dealers” on our streets and big income for Big Pharma; along with medications they overcharge for such as the epiPen and diabetic diognostic strips, HIV-AIDS and cancer treatments which are now cost prohibitive for patients. There are states which legally allow medical use of CBD oil from cannabis and hemp plant which is beneficial to those suffering from Meniere’s Disease, the disease which has totally disabled me for 24 years. When I was diagnosed in 1974, and through the continuing years by all physicians, their “drug of choice” was valium, which I refused to accept until 6-7 years ago due to side effects. Would a more natural product, prescribed for any illness, have fewer unpleasant side effects and be more beneficial? Cranberries in tablet or gel-tab form are highly beneficial for preventing bladder infections; Mother Nature has always been there for us, if we take time to learn the benefits of nature.

    “Has the policy been perfect? No. Of course, no policy is. However, the Cole Memo did provide a system by which cannabis was no longer sold only by unregulated dealers and/or drug cartels. It provided safeguards and promoted the testing of products. It put states on notice to develop robust regulatory systems. It allowed an industry to move out of the shadows and into a system that taxed and regulated its products.”

    Several years ago my friend’s son, who headed a rock band, moved with the band to Oregon. He was growing 5-6 marijuana plants in his back yard for their use – illegally, without question. No idea how authorities became aware of this but when they arrested him the agents spread a huge canvas on the ground, pulled up all plants with roots, dirt, grass and weeds and rolled it up. They weighed the entire amount of the canvas and contents and charged him with illegally growing that weight of marijuana. Just sayin’

  4. State’s Rights are only for the GOP to demand and only when it involves issues that they want full control of at the state level.

    The GOP is like kids on the school yard playground who want to make the rules for the games and then want to change those rules when they aren’t working in their favor.

  5. What I fear is that a world calamitous political event will catapult our “clown” and his fool’s entourage into glittering fame and soaring approval so all will be forgotten before November, 2018 when our most important election will take place.
    Please let him keep the flame alive with his tweets, rants and rages so we can replace this Congress thereby emasculate him and drive him whimpering childishly to the golf course.

  6. The image I just conjured up in my mind of Donald Trump wearing a fine coat of tar and feathers cracks me up.

  7. How do we avoid seeming hypocritical about states rights when from one face of our preferred policies we favor a state’s right to legalize marijuana and from apparently another face of our agenda we demand federal authority oversee rules and behavior in regard to human rights? Abortion rights?

    I suggest we support our contention with something other than state’s rights. Like results; outcome; does the nation benefit more from state control or federal control? Like division of oversight according to an agency’s capabilities. Like have individual states already proven they cannot manage the oversight in question? Like do the effects of the issue impact locally, regionally, or nationally? Surely there is a governing principle that applies to this question and does not hinge on the states rights issue.

    The duty of the federal government to be pragmatic, to get results, seems to me principle enough, but maybe our population of opinionists no longer cares if results are beneficial…or care if its opinions are consistent with any principle at all…or care if its latest opinion is consistent with its last opinion.

  8. Sheila,

    “Where’s that “deep state” when you need it?”

    Using Tom’s phrase “cut to the chase,” maybe it’s time, NOW, in America for another battle between the states, more specifically the “DEEP STATES,” democratic versus fascist.

    Let’s keep it friendly, no need for anyone to get hurt.

  9. To quote Professor Einstein:

    “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”

    We must go DEEPER. That’s where we have the advantage.

  10. Larry,

    This again becomes the time to debate these issues and set the boundaries of the rights of the states to enact laws as opposed to the federals governments duties to protect and defend the country. Perhaps this is an impossibility, but this debate never seems to be settled and screams at us daily from every court house, every state house, every government agency, congress and the White House.

    I for one am weary of it.

  11. Larry Kaiser; unless I misunderstood what I read; state laws can prevail over federal laws as long as they do NOT break Constitutional or Amendment laws.

  12. Theresa,

    “Perhaps this is an impossibility, but this debate never seems to be settled and screams at us daily……..”

    At the present time, it’s IMPOSSIBLE at the present LEVEL of debate.

  13. Marv, you are right of course. There is no real debate going on, just yelling and screaming and lies on the streets and over the airways. As long as the present “leadership” is in power there will be no debate, just “sound and fury signifying nothing”.

  14. Do we still call it the Department of Justice? Strange.

    The only Cabinet Secretary who has any capability for their job is Tillerson and he’s not very good, certainly less effective than the average SecState.

    The rest are, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, a wrecking crew. The Administrative State is the functional part of government. It’s the experienced professional expert part. Will any survive the incompetence at the top? There’s no question that it will take years to repair the damage. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the country will lose a decade for every Trump term in getting back to where we were when Obama left.

  15. Pete,

    “It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the country will lose a decade for every Trump term in getting back to where we were when Obama left.”

    And who is going to do all the work necessary to do that? Better still, who is going to pay for it?

  16. Last year, Colorado MJ taxes generated billions – that’s BILLIONS – in revenue for the state’s services. It just seems reasonable to have that money go to good use instead of into the pockets of the illegal drug industry. Then, reason was never part of the Republican agenda and certainly not from any aspect of the Trump administration.

    Perhaps the most important statement in this blog is the evidence supporting the lack of harm done by MJ use, while tobacco and alcohol continue to kill people in one way or another.

  17. The legal cannabis industry is projected to be worth $40 Billion by 2021. That kind of money buys a lot of billable hours from lobbyists. And I suspect other management-level DOJ personnel will engage in some degree of passive resistance by not focussing terribly hard on enforcement of federal pot laws in those states with legalized cannabis use, other than to go after what remains of the illegal drug trade in those states. Rescinding the Cole Memo may slow things down in states that haven’t legalized medicinal or recreational use, but it won’t stop anything in the end. Sessions may as well try to stack sand.

    And as for the “Deep State”, reading that phrase this morning made me think it would be a good title for a formulaic, mediocre network drama staring a couple of washed up B-list stars from the 1990s. (I know, I know, that’s what THEY want me to think….)

  18. I tried pot in 1967, big deal, after the navy ,1974, maybe as a drink, when off work, big deal, i dont like alcohol much,or its hangover effect. as my life dictates, when its possible, vacation time, off time between jobs, or among casual associates, who all, support this, and like me, dont care much for other mellowing agents. so here i am today, viagra has left me with swelling of my eyelids, guess what?,, a certain strain of pot, hold the hat up quite well,and ,well since being married for 35 years, shes happy too. hey sessions, smoke some pot, and get your ,whatever you refer your usefullness is called,,and get to work on your wife.. support norml, its a real org, that has won. and we can wim this too… seems the AGs in many states are not required to dismiss this,but its not on thier things to do today… if any charges would be made, it would be called,, states running a crimainal enterprise… now lets see whos going to win this one,after the money issue…

  19. Bernie Sanders wanted to legalize marijuana as president. He was too “far out man”. Bernie also called Wall Street’s practices a fraud. As we now know from the Paradise Papers and the Panama Papers, we have a world wide financial network of money laundering and tax evasion. The Trumpet and his Republican companions have voted for more tax breaks for the 1%. Bernie wanted also to have Universal Health Care – Medicare for all Americans. The Trumpet and his crew are doing their level best to make health care affordable-if and only if you can pay for it.

    Bernie wanted to properly fund Social Security by raising the income limitation on the wealthy people. There is a cap on taxable income that goes into the Social Security system.
    I read an article that pointed out that the Democratic Party Establishment, since Clinton’s defeat has been centered around the Trumpet, i.e., Russia and now infighting and turmoil in his administration.

    The point of the article was the Democratic Establishment has not presented a plan or strategy to win in 2018 based upon issues. The Democratic Establishment has decided to run against The Trumpet. The problem with that strategy is The Trumpet is not on the ballot this year.

  20. Taken as A-Hole, I don’t see any serious literary or artistic bent in Sessions- who is arguably an obscenity with no redeeming social value. Got the trifecta for obscenity now. Sorry, forgot community standards.

  21. I see nothing at odds with the idea of some activities that are subject to state control and others that are subject to federal control (depending upon jurisdictional touchstones). Abortion, for instance, was decided on the federal stage though states have whittled Roe substantially with their statutory shame requirements, many of which I consider to be unconstitutional. As to pot, perhaps the Supremacy Clause could be instituted to override state laws on the topic.

    In my view, comparisons to worse substances allowed is not a good argument for legalization – why add not so bad to bad? Nor is the argument that the Dutch experience in legalization of all drugs the answer. What is not mentioned in the Dutch plan is that there is a well-supported program that finances those who wish to withdraw or go clean. Imagine how that proposal would fare in state legislatures and the Congress here.

    I think the War on Drugs was a failure because we attacked the wrong enemy – drug gang dealers and their ilk – who could in time be put out of business if demand evaporated. The process of drying up demand will require time and resources and at best would not be one hundred percent effective, but in my opinion would be the better policy choice than the patchwork efforts in which we have been currently engaged. As the old saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. I fear we are arguing talking points by the pro and con forces rather than the science undergirding the policy choice which is, that intake of such drugs is a public health issue and to be treated as such. Who does the enforcing is a matter of constitutional law.

  22. Indiana Democrats have been behind Cannabis for years, whereas the Republicans are finally understanding as well. Nationally, the Dems had better be pushing some issues, Cannabis among them. That is, unless they have fallen in love with the taste of defeat.

  23. A few years ago, I wrote a chapter for one of my books about the “war on drugs”. It was around 2010 that the DOJ reported that since Nixon started that war, we had spent over $2 trillion on trying to interdict the flow of drugs and bust traffickers. At that time, MJ was the cash cow for the druggies, creating their operating capital. Everything after that was pure profits.

    One of our agents secretly filmed a “holding house” in Mexico that had a very large room filled with plastic wrapped pallets of U.S. currency. It was estimated that within that one room, over $2billion in cold cash was kept. Where did all that money come from?

    It came from pot smokers and coke snorters and pill poppers with more money than sense and a complete disregard for anything including their own well-being and health. And that means that millions of Americans are spending disposable income on temporary solutions to their problems, their frustrations and their boredom.

    So, adding up the numbers, it seems that we could pay off our debts from illegal wars by de-criminalizing these drugs and removing the incentive for illegal activities to take our money elsewhere than in the pockets of our consumers of goods and services. But then, I am an idealist. Whatever would the totally corrupt Sessions and his pals do with those empty jails and prisons? They might have to invest in our people instead of the graft games they play for money.

  24. Careful there Monotonous Languor,constructive criticism of the current Democratic Party will probably garner some hate toward you from “some” of the commenters. It’s interesting a few days ago a post advocating for “righteous” use of eugenics caused almost nary a response.

    Back to your post, of course,you’re absolutely correct.

  25. As a medical marijuana patient, ask me anything. I have used MJ since high school to relax and ease anxiety. Now I use it mostly as a sleep aid and pain reliever for my thyroid condition, bursitis and menopausal symptoms. I have some CBD oil that I also use daily to help with bone pain. Sometimes, I just use it to be happier.

    Prohibition didn’t do so well in this country probably because, we are supposedly a free country. For the love of gawd, they need to decriminalize it so that everyone over 18 can use it without fear of ruining their life for a few hours of peace. Ask away.

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