On January 1, California became one of only several states to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. It's one of eight states to legalize the casual use of the drug, along with Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and, of course, Colorado.
Now, we could spend days discussing the various reasons why pot is significantly less harmful than booze, but it seems as though this argument has been long-since won by marijuana supporters, so it ought to be obvious by now -- kind of a no-brainer. Instead, there are two significant sources of concern emerging now that the dominoes are beginning to fall, state by state.
First, in a bizarre political twist, small government states' rights conservatives like Jeff Sessions have taken measures to exert the Department of Justice's authority over successful state initiatives to legalize pot.
As you've probably heard, Sessions rolled back what's known as the "Cole Memo," named after James Cole, President Obama's deputy attorney general. The memo, authored in 2014, stated that federal law enforcement wouldn't supersede legal-weed states even though marijuana is still illegal under federal law. We still don't know whether U.S. attorneys in the aforementioned group of recreational states, as well as medical marijuana states, will pursue dispensary businesses or citizens possessing legal quantities of pot, but officials in California, Colorado and Washington have each reiterated that they plan to defend the will of their citizens.
The second concern is has to do with something far more sinister.
Sessions' decision dropped just four days into the New Year -- four days after recreational weed became available to purchase in California, a deep blue state filled with Trump haters. It seems obvious that this is likely Trump exacting revenge against a blue state. After all, there's nothing about the rescinding of the Cole Memo that would create more jobs. There's nothing particularly beneficial to the economy for Cole's guidance to be repealed. This decision ought to be seen as part of Trump's obsession with actively rolling back every decision by the Obama administration in an effort to erase the first African-American president from the pages of history.
It gets worse. As part of that roll-back, it's possible that Trump could use the rescinding of the rule to arrest political opponents.
In the past several months, as the Russia investigation grows increasingly treacherous for the president, we've seen more warning signs that Trump will react in increasingly damaging and violent ways, including by investigating and perhaps jailing his political enemies. It began with renewed fury over the so-called Uranium One deal and Hillary Clinton's rather tangential connection to it. That led to Trump directly (and laughably) accusing Hillary of being the Real Colluder, linking her with the Steele Dossier and the aforementioned uranium deal, even though, following the election, Trump signaled he wouldn't "lock her up" after all.
On Friday, Trump not only went there again, tweeting that Hillary is the real criminal, but also his tweet dropped into our collective laps shortly before The New York Times published a document authored by Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham in which the senators, clearly acting in defense of Trump, recommended that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy AG, and Christopher Wray, Trump's newly appointed FBI director, launch a criminal investigation into Christopher Steele, the well-respected former MI6 agent and author of the infamous Steele Dossier.
That's a second politically motivated accusation of illegality in a single day, and the third attack against a political enemy of Trump in recent memory: Hillary, Steele and, of course, anyone who dares to sell or purchase legal weed in blue states (Alaska notwithstanding). Actually, make that a fourth or possibly fifth example of politically motivated revenge if we include former acting-FBI director Andrew McCabe and James Comey, each of whom could face some form of prosecution if Fox News decides to feed the idea into Trump's worm-infested brain.
The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin tweeted a warning along those lines today:
I tend to agree with Toobin's warning, given the direction Trump & Company are clearly headed. Trump and his minion are weaponizing their federal authority to pursue anyone who's dared to undermine Trump's wafer-thin ego as well as his wafer-thin grip on his deeply imperiled presidency.
We're seeing the beginnings of a calamitous-yet-slow moving advance toward autocracy: Trump abusing his power to imprison his opponents for petty vengeance, thus consolidating his power and intimidating anyone who would dare to hold him accountable. This isn't a game. This isn't a movie. This is really happening as we speak. Keep your eyes open and hunker down. It's going to be a long year...