Fight Sessions’ pot policy, but don’t ignore other issues

The following editorial was published in the Seattle Times:

(TNS) Threatening moves by Attorney General Jeff Sessions against states that legalized marijuana are ill-informed, destructive and a distraction from far more important issues.

Sessions last week rescinded two Obama-era U.S. Department of Justice memos that had established a fairly hands-off approach to legalized medical and recreational marijuana.

The memos provided clarity for federal officials by prioritizing enforcement of serious offenses such as interstate trafficking, cartel involvement and distribution to minors.

They also helped reduce conflict between archaic elements of federal drug law and state laws that increasingly legalize and regulate marijuana.

President Donald Trump should explain how this apparent move toward heavy-handed federal regulation and attack on state rights squares with his governing philosophy.

Trump’s administration must also provide its rationale to the public and guidance to law enforcement and a marijuana industry that’s approaching $20 billion a year in regulated sales.

Uncertainty and the risk of regressing to prohibition — a failed policy that sapped law-enforcement resources, disproportionately targeted people of color and failed to rein in consumption — should prompt Congress to advance proposals to regulate, rather than prohibit, marijuana.

Recreational use is now legal in eight states including Washington, Oregon and California, and medical use is legal in 29 states. Additional states have decriminalized possession of small quantities or authorized use for particular illnesses.

State and local officials are right to defend enlightened marijuana laws that reflect the will of the people.

This is precisely the sort of policy challenge that made former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan a wise choice for Seattle mayor.

Seattle and Washington will no doubt play a large role in any legal response by Western states to the Sessions move, but this can’t distract from more pressing issues.

Dreadful shortcomings in Washington’s mental-health system, for instance, cry out for the impassioned response and spotlight that Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson gave to Trump’s latest offense.

Regional officials must resist being accomplices in Trump administration misdirection efforts. It appeared to use this hot-button issue to divert attention from new allegations of Trump misbehavior and investigations into Russian meddling.

Sessions is wrong to pull the nation backward on marijuana policy.

Regardless of the motive and the timing, it’s terrible governance to sow uncertainty and confusion for states, a nascent industry, law enforcement and tens of millions of consumers.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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