Nearly five years after Washington voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults, the issue is far from settled.
Now, with indications that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is preparing to enforce federal law that conflicts with marijuana legalization, it is imperative that Congress act to reconcile that law with growing public sentiment that favors legalization. Members of Congress should seek to protect industries in states that allow marijuana use and to avoid a costly and counterproductive legal battle between those states and the federal government.
As The Hill reported this week: “President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant.”
Concern from advocates for legalization is understandable. Before becoming attorney general, Sessions delivered some eyebrow-raising quotes about marijuana, such as “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan were “OK, until I found out they smoked pot.” If there is, indeed, evidence that links marijuana to violent crime, that evidence should be taken into consideration. But the administration’s frequent embrace of alternative facts would lead to reasonable doubt about any such findings.
Washington voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012 with 56 percent of the vote (in Clark County, the measure was opposed by 50.3 percent of voters). Since the industry was launched in 2013, it has generated more than $2 billion in revenue and more than $400 million in taxes. The city of Vancouver receives about $500,000 a year in marijuana taxes, money that is being used to support the local police department.
Tax revenue is not reason enough to support…