Stalwarts who have, for years, been voices in the wilderness, proclaiming from the weedy edges of the cannabis universe that REPEAL, not “legalization,” is the way to go when it comes to truly getting rid of marijuana prohibition, could be excused if their heads exploded.
Alison Holcomb, the ACLU lawyer who is the chief author of the widely derided I-502, Washington’s “worst in the nation” marijuana legalization law, now says the best response — if Trump implements the policies favored by his own Cabinet — would be to repeal all cannabis laws, including the one she wrote.
Now, by almost all accounts, it’s still unlikely that the federal government will send Drug Enforcement Administration agents into legal states like Washington to enforce pot’s Schedule I legal status at the federal level. But what if he does?
After all, Trump’s Attorney General nominee, redneck Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, is a die-hard prohibitionist. Sessions said, earlier this year, that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He has said that marijuana legalization is a “tragic mistake.” And he has said that he thought the KKK “were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions is just one of a deplorable room full of prohibitionists Trump has nominated, by the way.
Sessions’ nomination by Trump has been described as no less than a “nightmare” by Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance.
If a crackdown comes, “The most effective way to defeat federal interference in cannabis regulatory systems may very well be for state legislators to repeal all laws and regulations relating to cannabis,” Holcomb said, reports Lester Black at The Stranger.
Holcomb said if the Washington Legislature strips any MENTION of marijuana from Washington state law, we’d be in a better position with the feds. That, of course, means removing both the laws regulating the state’s legal cannabis market, and the older laws criminalizing weed in the first place. Too bad she didn’t mention that in 2012, when I-502 was on the ballot.
One major flaw of I-502 is that it leaves cannabis illegal under Washington state’s controlled substance statutes. I-502’s tepid brand of “legalization” merely carved out an exception to the state’s prohibition of marijuana. The exception applies only when business is conducted within strict parameters set by the state. (And the state benefits greatly from the tax proceeds).
“Repeal it all, so there are no laws on the Washington State books that address marijuana,” Holcomb said.
Federal Enforcement: An Impossible Task
With only about 5,500 DEA agents coast to coast, enforcing federal marijuana laws at that point would become an almost impossible task, both logistically and financially. And with no state laws against cannabis, local law enforcement wouldn’t be able to help.
Sam Mendez, who directs the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law, is less enthusiastic about Holcomb’s idea. “It’s sort of like a scorched-earth strategy,” he said.
“We’re going to burn down our house so the robbers won’t rob it,” Mendez said. “I am just as terrified of the Trump Administration as anybody else is, but it behooves the industry to work with the administration to at least keep a status quo rather than start a war.”
How About Paying Federal Taxes?
With “businessman” Trump in the White House, could the legal marijuana industry possibly slide by by offering Trump a piece of the action?
Yes, according to Clif Curry, staff attorney for the King County Council. According to Curry, it may make the best sense for legal marijuana states to offer to pay federal excise tax on weed sales.
“By letting the federal government in on tax revenues (which they will need for other planned initiatives), the states might be able to preserve their current programs,” Curry said.
‘Stop Arresting People for Using Marijuana’
“The point of I-502 was to stop arresting people for using marijuana,” Holcomb said. “And I-502 was the right vehicle at that time to move us in that direction, and depending on what happens now, we may have to move in an entirely new direction. But the North Star is the same North Star: Don’t arrest people… because they use marijuana or grow it and want to share it with others.”
At least Alison has now admitted that repeal can achieve that same goal. So why, exactly, was it necessary for the medical marijuana system to be destroyed in Washington state? Alison seems close to admitting that clearing the decks for a profit-driven system — by driving out mom-and-pop artisanal providers and destroying safe, affordable access for thousands of patients statewide — was entirely unnecessary.
Better late than never, we suppose. #BummerAboutThePatients!