Vail Daily Editorial: Change the law
January 31, 2017
By the time you read this, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions may be well on his way to becoming the new U.S. Attorney General. Among critics' concerns is one that may hit home in Colorado: Sessions' stance on marijuana.
Sessions is said to oppose liberalized state marijuana laws. As head of the U.S. Justice Department, that could mean a serious about-face in federal policy, since even the possession of marijuana remains a federal felony.
Throughout the past eight years, former President Barack Obama appointed two attorneys general who took a mostly hands-off stance as states liberalized their marijuana laws. That led to more liberalization efforts, and there are now 28 states in which marijuana is legal for either medical or recreational use.
Those states include California — long a medical-use state, which legalized recreational marijuana in the November election.
With that many states liberalizing their laws, there may finally be support in Congress for relaxing federal marijuana laws.
Action in the states — including Colorado — was one of the driving forces in repealing alcohol prohibition in the early 1930s. The constitutional amendment prohibiting the sale, production, importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages quickly became a national disaster, and was repealed just 13 years after it was enacted in 1920.
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While there's still a lot of concern about marijuana, we've now had a few years to see how legalizing pot has worked in Colorado and Washington. The fears of the most fervid marijuana opponents haven't materialized, mostly, and pot has grown into a big business in those states.
New federal crackdowns on legal marijuana would needlessly affect thriving and growing businesses, and the people who work for those businesses. Relaxing federal laws — particularly regarding banking — would enable those businesses to continue to grow.
But Congress needs to act for that to happen. There seems to be plenty of popular will across the country, so we'll see if that translates to federal action.
Until Congress acts, legitimate businesses in more than half the country will be left to wonder about a federal law enforcement system that can either turn a blind eye to those businesses or decide to enforce the letter of federal law, depending on who happens to hold the top job.
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