The Sessions ‘Marijuana Crackdown’ Is Backfiring

Sessions Crackdown Cannabis Now

Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the cannabis-friendly Cole Memo on Jan. 4, two state legislatures have voted to legalize marijuana, a third held fast to its legalization plans, and a Republican senator hinted he’d introduce a federal legalization measure.

It’s been a week since Jeff Sessions shook the marijuana world to its core, or tried to.

On Jan. 4, the attorney general followed up a year’s worth of open threats and obvious fighting words aimed at cannabis legalization — a plant which Sessions really, really does not like — with his boldest move yet: the revocation of the “Cole Memo,” the Obama-era policy missive that triggered a period of even more furious growth in already-booming legal marijuana.

Without the Cole Memo steering prosecutors away from state-legal cannabis and giving banks some assurance that their marijuana accounts would not be seized, surely the inexorable trend towards allowing medical cannabis or outright legalization would be halted.

The impact of Sessions’s crackdown, however, was immediate and decisive, but not in the way Sessions expected. The very next day, Vermont lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana, a feat followed up by legislators in New Hampshire, who on Monday approved a plan that would allow adults to possess small amounts of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home.

Two days after Sessions’s big day, commercial sales of marijuana began in San Francisco, where lawmakers all but dared him and other federal officers to do something about it, and other politicians converted the attorney general’s move into a talking point.

In New Jersey, the state that recently gave us Chris Christie, incoming Governor Phil Murphy assured voters that his plan to legalize marijuana within 100 days was still on.

In Congress, Republican Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, a key collaborator in the passage of Donald Trump’s tax bill, fumed and vowed to block passage of judicial nominees unless Sessions relented — and if he didn’t, that it might be the impetus necessary for a “legislative solution,” Senate-speak for a federal legalization bill.

Elsewhere, the attorney general was branded a “hypocrite” and a traitor to conservative values. Conservatives bashed him, liberals blasted him, libertarians wondered what got into him.

Sessions achieved the unthinkable: In these divisive partisan times, the attorney general has found a way to unite Americans behind a common cause. In other words, Sessions is failing, in spectacular fashion. Instead of blocking marijuana legalization in its tracks, he appears to have given it a boost.

Such a backlash was predictable. Indeed, it was predicted. “This is an open-and-shut issue for liberals, for libertarians, for young people, even for a lot of conservatives and Trump voters,” Robby Soave, an associate editor at libertarian Reason magazine, told Vox. “They may not all like weed, but they are coming around to the position that banning it isn’t worth the effort, and in any case, this should be up to the states.”

In the new Trump White House tell-all, “The Fire and the Fury,” writer Michael Wolff gave more voice to an earlier theory: The presidency was never a job Donald Trump wanted in the first place, and moves like decreasing his workday to seven hours is a way to wiggle out of it.

Could Sessions, humiliated several times by the big boss (after which he tried but failed to resign), be attempting a similar exit — a sort of suicide-by-cannabis?

Revoking the Cole Memo breaks a Trump campaign promise. It also makes the president look bad and unpopular, to little appreciable benefit. Trump doesn’t care about the former — and gives thought to else beyond the latter. Marijuana, Jeff Sessions’s bête noir, may yet prove to be his undoing.

TELL US, do you think Jeff Sessions should have revoked the Cole Memo?

Chris Roberts has written about medical cannabis, drug policy, and legalization ever since spending a few months in Humboldt County in 2009, with bylines for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and SF Weekly. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cbloggy.


  1. TH

    January 12, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    No. He should not have done this.
    I would almost say they should make a bill that bans all keebler elves from holding office of any kind. Send him back to the north pole.

  2. Kate

    January 12, 2018 at 9:41 am

    If Sessions wants prohibition on marijuana than why doesn’t he get rid of alcohol as well, which is in reality, a dangerous drug. Statistics are indisputable regarding accidents, murders and rapes committed under the influence of alcohol,
    Along with the health problems related to alcohol.
    Marijuana has many proven medicinal benefits. Where are the medicinal benefits of alcohol?
    I guess Sessions is just a “good ol boy” who loves his alcohol. He’s a sickening hypocrite!
    Wasn’t he quoted as saying “I never saw anything wrong with the Ku Klux Klan until I found out they smoked pot”. The guy is sick and should be striped of any power.

    • sonny

      January 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      nicotine is worst than alcohol,it kills 120 people a day,it is also what sessions says is wrong with cannabis ,no medical benefits,and is highly addictive and kills people.

  3. Jerry

    January 12, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Jeff Session is a little weasel… He is just another official that doesn’t stand for for the people… Another good ole boy doing what he wants….

  4. Christopher SImmons

    January 12, 2018 at 8:20 am

    This Alabama “redneck” was ok with the Ku Klux Klan, until he found out that some of them smoked marijuana. Maybe, we need to look into the Keebler Elf’s history to see if he was apart of this cowardly organization, as he seems to be fixated on the mass incarceration of Black and Hispanic people.

  5. Christopher SImmons

    January 12, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, named after two dead Southern Civil War Generals (Jefferson Davis and PGT Beauregard), is a devout racist, avid investor in the American Prison Industrial Complex, and Major Benefector of the Big Pharma and Big Alcohol that gives over $150 million to corrupt politicians on Capitol Hill in order to keep Cannabis “illegal”, so that Cannabis doesn’t deplete their opiate (OxyContin, opioids, alcohol) profits. Opiates kill 50,000 young people per year, alcohol- millions, tobacco- hundreds of thousands, Cannabis-0 deaths, yet Sessions is fixated on vilifying cannabis because he’s getting paid to do so.

  6. jack eich

    January 11, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    leave it alone

  7. Tracy

    January 11, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Brian Schatz is wrong in his history. Cannabis did not become illegal till 1937.

    • robert deen

      January 12, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      He is not wrong. He stated 1920’s style prohibition. Not that it started in the 1920’s. You are right about 1932. Do you know why it was prohibited in the first place? Race!

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