Congress Should Legalize Marijuana, Reverse Sessions’ Decision

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not been subtle about the changes he wants to bring to the Department of Justice since he assumed office in February 2017.

Sessions announced on Jan. 4 he would be rescinding an Obama-era policy that allowed for a “hands off” approach in the federal interference of states’ decisions to legalize marijuana. This policy enacted by the Obama administration, led to the legalization of recreational use of the drug in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington D.C.

This decision by Sessions demonstrates that even though progress has been made and opinions have changed over the past decade, the war on drugs is far from over. Sessions also praised the “broken windows theory” of policing in a speech he gave to the National District Attorneys Association in July of last year. Advocates of the “broken windows theory” of policing believe that if police place a larger focus on cracking down on misdemeanor crimes, the amount of serious crimes will drop along with the amount of fear that encompasses communities.

Sessions had to defend accusations of racism for most of his career and this decision certainly does not help his case.

A report conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013 stated that while the use of marijuana is roughly equal among black and white people, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests made between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for simply possessing it. Blacks and Hispanics make up only 32 percent of the U.S. population, but comprised 56 percent of overall incarcerated people in 2015.

This disparity did not occur by accident and is deeply rooted in the undeniable racial bias that has historically ruled over our nation’s criminal justice system. These statistics prove that the results of the decision made by Sessions will be nothing short of despicable and discriminatory.

I believe that marijuana should be legalized at the federal level, and I am not alone. A Gallup poll released in 2017 states that 64 percent of Americans believe the use of marijuana should become legal. Along with that, 72 percent of Democrats support the legalization of the drug. For the first time ever, a majority of Republicans, 51 percent, support it as well. This growing amount of support from the American public and members of both major political parties should encourage Congress to pass legislation that will block Sessions’ decision.

Ironically, President Donald Trump himself stated on the campaign trail in 2016 that he was in favor of “letting the states work it out.” U.S. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said in a statement that before he voted to confirm Sessions as U.S. Attorney General, he was ensured by Sessions that the prosecution of marijuana would not become a priority under the current administration.

Alcohol and tobacco are both substances that our country allows the controlled use of, and both can certainly be dangerous to health and public safety. Educational campaigns have been made to teach about those dangers. Laws have been made that allow for the possession and use of them while simultaneously keeping public safety in mind.

There is absolutely no reason to believe the same thing cannot also be done for marijuana.