The ongoing series of veiled threats and vague statements regarding the Trump Administration’s potential policies on legalized marijuana has, in part, become an argument over facts.
As in, what actually constitutes one?
The latest example came in an exchange of letters in recent weeks between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and officials in the state of Washington.
Voters long ago decided the issue of marijuana in Washington, voting to legalize it for both medical and recreational use.
However, Sessions has long been an opponent of legalized marijuana. He has scoffed at the idea it works as a medicine. He has stated that it leads to violent crime and is a "gateway" drug. He stated, famously, that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
That last statement is subjective, but plenty of scientific studies show Sessions is wrong about the medical potential of marijuana, its contribution to crime and it being a gateway drug.
Then, in a July letter to state leaders in Washington, Sessions quoted at length from a report which he said found that marijuana regulation in Washington is inadequate. Some of the charges included selling marijuana to minors and that marijuana from Washington has been shipped to 43 other states.
In response, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Robert Ferguson said Sessions is relying on old data that is no longer factual under the current regulatory system.
“Honestly, it’s hard to take him seriously if he relies on such outdated information,” Ferguson told the Seattle Times.
Governor Inslee took a more circumspect tone in his letter in response to Sessions, issuing a statement that commended Sessions on his concerns about public safety in connection with the marijuana market. However, he also pointed out that he believes Sessions is using bad information.
“It is clear that our goals regarding health and safety are in step with the goals Attorney General Sessions has articulated,” Inslee said. “Unfortunately he is referring to incomplete and unreliable data that does not provide the most accurate snapshot of our efforts since the marketplace opened in 2014.”
Inslee also directly addressed the now months-long, ongoing series of comments from Trump Administration officials that seem to indicate they will enforce federal laws that list marijuana as an illegal drug. It remains unclear what that means, exactly.
Inslee wrote that Washington state is working hard to fulfill the wishes of state voters to have legal marijuana while also creating a sound regulatory system. He wrote that it is important the Trump Administration support the state “rather than undermining our efforts and diminishing our ability to work constructively with growers and distributors.”
A common sense question in all of this is why top political leaders in 2017 are debating an issue via snail mail. The answer seems to be simply that they can’t get a meeting.
In February, Inslee and Ferguson wrote a letter to Sessions asking for a one-on-one meeting about marijuana. Colorado officials invited Sessions to the Rocky Mountain State earlier this year to see firsthand how the government is regulating cannabis and how marijuana businesses are operating.
In April, the governors of Alaska. Colorado, Oregon and Washington teamed up to write a letter for Sessions asking for a meeting.
Sessions met privately with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in Washington, D.C. Afterward, Hickenlooper said he is optimistic there will be no crackdown by the federal government on marijuana. However, Sessions subsequently wrote a letter about regulatory concerns to Colorado officials that resembles the one sent to Washington officials.
No other meetings have been held.