Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jeff Sessions: The Man Who Liked the KKK, Until He Found Out Some of Them Smoked Pot

Jeff Sessions, next Attorney General of the Confederacy United States
President-elect Donald Trump has picked Jeff Sessions, an old racist US senator from Alabama, to be the nation's next Attorney General. Sessions defended Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the US and has been a hardliner on illegal immigration for his entire career. His actions in the legislature  suggest that he's one of many influential Republicans who believes there's a certain "good" kind of American (straight and white), and that the rest deserve as hard a time as possible because, well, that's the Southern spirit for ya.

Sessions also has the legal cannabis industry nervous, as he has generally been on the opposite side of any drug policy-reform movements. Their concerns are legitimate; after all, this is a guy who was reportedly overhead saying that he used to think some members of the KKK were OK - that is, "until he found out that some of them were 'pot smokers.'"

Could Sessions oversee the rollback of pot legalization across the country? Marijuana advocates have been here before. In the 1970s, as state after state relaxed penalties for pot possession, many in the movement developed an air of certainty about the weed's legal status. Counterculture publications such as Denver's Straight Creek Journal wrote about the subject with levity, believing that since more people - especially white people - were "getting it," the end of the Drug War was nigh.

That turned out not to be the case, as the country's political atmosphere lurched to the right during the 1980s, and the War on Drugs was turned up to an unprecedented scale. Police forces brutalized inner-city black communities using the excuse of cracking down on crack; state and federal agents fought a guerilla war against pot growers in northern California; and Wall Street cocaine users were jailed in record numbers - JUST KIDDING; they were mostly left to do their thing. Is today's legal cannabis movement, all swollen with confidence after winning over a slew of new states in the election, doomed to the accursed tides of history?

Of course, in the 1970s there wasn't an already functioning, multi-billion-dollar weed industry. Trump loves money, and he's reportedly ok with state-level legal weed; could he keep Sessions from rolling everything back? Or will Trump see more money in private prisons - an idea that Sessions also supports - filled with black and brown pot violators?

One thing's for sure: legal or illegal, people aren't going to stop growing and smoking pot. The movement will continue, even if the pendulum swings back toward prohibition. The problem is that, like it has in the past, prohibition under men like Trump and Sessions will have a disproportionate and devastating impact on the poor and communities of color. That, and not the billions of dollars in legal weed on the line, would be the most awful thing about potential de-legalization.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Hempiricist's Return: Americans Legalize Marijuana, Bigotry

What a day to return to blogging.

I'm sure nobody noticed, but I've been away from this site for more than a year now, trying to get the second draft of my book done. It is finally done, and I can finally give this blog the attention it's been craving. A lot has changed since my last post, namely:

-I had a child;

-The Chicago Cubs won the World Series, and

-Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States.

The first event is the best thing that ever happened to me, the second is a sure sign of the Apocalypse, and the third is confirmation that the second thing was a sure sign of the Apocalypse.

Perhaps God knows that the world will end soon and is at least allowing us to go out smoking a ton of legal reefers - last night (and this morning), voters in California, Nevada, and Massachusetts approved the legalization of recreational pot. But it wasn't just those blue states that went green - Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Montana, all of which went to Trump, approved medical marijuana. 

What does this mean? We know that under President Obama, legal weed was generally left free to proceed - see the Cole Memorandum. Will Trump rescind that? He's said that he thinks marijuana should be a "state-by-state" issue, but given how many times he's gone back and forth on many issues during the campaign, that really doesn't tell us much. He's also said he wants to bring "law and order" back to the streets, a phrase that echoes the conservative mantra during the heyday of the war on drugs.

Quite frankly, given what Trump and his movement represents, we're probably looking at an increase in both police brutality and harassment, especially in neighborhoods of color. Trump has not spoken kindly about people living in those places, and they would certainly bear the brunt of any attempt to "get tough" on crime and drugs.

But that's still only what is likely to happen. As this election showed, we don't really know jack. Just have to see what happens.