Jeff Sessions has been talking about cracking down on states where marijuana is legal since the moment he became U.S. Attorney General. The Hill is reporting that Sessions intends to ditch an Obama-era law prohibiting federal interference in states that have legalized marijuana.
Odds are Sessions won’t be around to do it, and even if he is, he may not have the ability. Stopping him is the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, a single paragraph of federal law that prohibits the Justice Department from spending even one cent to prosecute medical marijuana users and sellers operating legally under state law. Sessions wants it rescinded. Whether it will go or he will go remains to be seen.
Retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States are expected to exceed $5 billion this year and surge to as high as $17 billion by 2021, according to projections released in the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017. That money talks and bullshit walks ain’t just for Texas, and the Keebler Elf is going to need many millions of federal dollars to spend on legal battles while shoveling his ancient, debunked, hysterical bullshit against the tide.
California on New Year’s Day became the sixth state to legalize recreational marijuana. California is home to 39 million people and has the sixth-largest economy in the world. Massachusetts and Maine are set to join California later this year. The home of the American revolution has 6.5 million people and is virulently anti-Trump. People-sparse Maine won full legalization by statewide referendum over the objection of its conservative governor. Cannabis remains illegal in New York for recreational use but is permitted for medical use, and possession of small amounts has been decriminalized. The population of the Empire State is about 8.6 million, most of it concentrated around New York City.
According to The Hill, wealthy growers and hedge funds have invested millions in production and sales of the magic herb. Sessions wants to shut them all down. Some enthusiastic industry analysts quoted in marijuana-powered magazines and blogs reported the North American cannabis market is already at $10 billion in annual sales. Canada is supposed to go legal next summer.
Several people investing in the nascent industry in Missouri said they collectively set aside $6 million in seed money for the day Missouri’s still shaky referendum effort finally buds. They will need all that just for legal fees, licenses, land, pole barns, lights, drying facilities and packaging for their modest 1,500 sq. ft. enterprise.
Medical marijuana is already available in next-door Illinois. Missouri industry hopefuls think the Illinois effort adds impetus to their referendum petition, rhetorically asking why Illinois should make all the money. They claim lawyers on both sides of the issue are already lining up for the legal battle that is sure to come. It is all about money.
Several county prosecuting attorneys in Missouri charged with enforcing marijuana violations say they can’t afford to prosecute illicit traders already growing pot all over Missouri. Missouri’s young governor has been largely silent on the issue, as has the state’s attorney general. Critics of Gov. Eric Greitens say the former Navy SEAL is waiting to discover which way the wind blows. He was formerly an active Democrat and protégée of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Prosecutors on both sides of the issue say Missouri is a bellwether state for any enhanced prosecution. There is no room in the county jails, no enthusiasm for strict enforcement and no monetary incentive available to fuel serious prosecution. Two prosecutors said federal authorities want nothing to do with prosecuting growers with fewer than 500 plants unless there is gun-related violence or related hard drug crime. They wonder who will pay for it.
California’s move to legalize recreational marijuana follows Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Nevada. Massachusetts and potentially Maine are supposed to begin sales this year. Twenty-nine states sell medical marijuana prescribed by doctors for a variety of ailments.
If Colorado is any indication of what average people think, recreational pot is as popular as breathing clean air, except in the far eastern flatland creeping up on prohibitionist Kansas. In Alma, the highest incorporated city in Colorado or the nation (in terms of elevation), the garishly painted recreational pot store and head shop is a must-do attraction for tourists.