Alicia Wallace reporting at the Denver Post’s Cannabist news site on an interview last week of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt–in which Sessions gets even more specific about his options for cracking down on the legal marijuana industry:
Sessions’ latest remarks on marijuana legalization and enforcement came during a radio interview Thursday with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
Hewitt broached the topic of marijuana by asking Sessions whether he would apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to “end this facade and the flaunting of the Supremacy Clause.”
“…And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize. I don’t think we’re going to be a better community if marijuana is sold in every corner grocery store.”
Asked about whether he could send a message by bringing a RICO case against one retailer, Sessions said the Justice Department is analyzing its options.
“Well, we’ll be evaluating how we want to handle that,” he said. “I think it’s a little more complicated than one RICO case, I’ve got to tell you. This, places like Colorado, it’s just sprung up a lot of different independent entities that are moving marijuana. And it’s also being moved interstate, not just in the home state. … And neighbors (Oklahoma and Nebraska) are complaining, and filed lawsuits against them. So it’s a serious matter, in my opinion.”
That Sessions specific cited the example of Colorado, as opposed to other legal marijuana states with functioning retail markets like Washington or Oregon, should indeed worry local marijuana industry supporters. Without the resources to deploy thousands of federal agents to shut down marijuana stores and growhouses, it’s much more likely that Sessions would choose to file suit against one example state, or even prosecute an individual business under federal marijuana laws in order to send a chilling message to the industry. The real objective for Sessions would not be to use federal resources to stamp out the marijuana industry, but to induce states to do so themselves.
Politically, this would be a destructive development for Colorado Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The question is whether our one small swing state would count for enough politically to give someone like Sessions pause–or for that matter, any of the marijuana states, most of whom are reliably blue.
Most likely, Sessions doesn’t give a crap about the politics. And if you care about Colorado’s marijuana industry, it’s quite possible that the best chance to defend it was before November 8th, 2016. Federal law is what it is, and the only thing that allowed this new industry to flourish without changing federal law was a permissive executive branch.
And because elections matter, those days are over.