Our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, just put an end to a federal marijuana policy that helped millions of people. In 2016, The Drug Policy Alliance reported that 653,249 people were arrested for violating marijuana laws. This number will increase drastically now the Cole memo has been repealed, which means that federal prosecutors can decide just how aggressively federal law should be enforced in states where marijuana is legal.
In order to understand the implications and nature of this bill, we must first understand the man behind it. Jeff Sessions, former Senator of Alabama, served as a senator for 20 years before becoming attorney general. He’s been a hard-line Republican, voting against almost every immigration bill that has come across his desk, and even voting against an amendment banning “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of prisoners. In other words, he supports torture and dehumanizing treatment of people. Not only this, but he’s also a climate change skeptic, saying, “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.” Clearly, someone never took biology classes back in school and now believes that CO2 is in fact not a pollutant. But, with a name like Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III, this isn’t too surprising. He’s also got a racism streak a mile wide. Back in 1986, a Senate committee denied Sessions a federal judgeship. His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” This by itself shows how racist and bigoted he is, but also shows why he would want to repeal the Cole memo—which according to Teen Vogue, urged federal prosecutors not to enforce federal marijuana law in states that had legalized marijuana.
When it comes to weed, around the country, Black people are arrested and convicted at a higher percentage than white people, even if the amount of people using the drug is the same. Repealing the Cole Memo will guarantee that this inequality persists. In fact, according to the ACLU, “Marijuana use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.” Of course, if they are pushing for more policing of marijuana, they are pushing for more policing and discrimination against Black people. These stats aren’t fake news, they’re facts, and they show a big problem that needs to be solved. While stats don’t lie, letting federal prosecutors decide whether the law should be enforced or not will further exacerbate racial bias and discrimination. Shanel Lindsay, who drafted Massachusetts’ adult marijuana usage law, says, “Treating cannabis as a crime results in disproportionately more people of color detained, arrested and convicted, despite the fact that blacks and whites have equal rates of usage.” This will give the police and the government a bigger opportunity to racially profile black people. There is obviously a bias when it comes to policing marijuana, and what Sessions has done will highlight that, resulting in more racially motivated arrests than there already are in our country.
Not only is repealing the Cole Memo enlarging the problem, but people overreacted to marijuana even before that. The DEA considers cannabis as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, just to name a few. The DEA website states that, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” While some people smoke too much, weed is not addictive, and there are a staggering amounts of medical uses for it. These include treating pain, glaucoma and nausea (especially the nausea that is a side-effect of chemotherapy) to name a few. And, it’s way better to use for medical purposes than something such as Oxycontin, because you can die from that by overdosing, but you can’t die from marijuana. It’s already astonishing that weed is in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy; it is also a schedule above drugs such as cocaine, Dilaudid, and Oxycontin—all highly addictive drugs that can kill you. Obviously, weed is a lot less harmful than those drugs, yet the DEA still considers weed to be a higher threat and priority. Marijuana definitely needs to be reclassified on the DEA’s list.
Repealing the Cole memo was an unnecessary and racist move made by Jeff Sessions that exacerbates the problem of racial profiling in our country. Marijuana is also being enforced way too strictly by the DEA, and something is obviously wrong when it is in the same category as heroin and LSD. Furthermore, I believe that marijuana should be decriminalized. Stopping drug cartels from shipping massive amounts of weed into the U.S is one thing, but over-policing people of color is racist and unjust. For breaking marijuana laws, there are over 650,000 arrests per year, ¾ of which are black people, which is astounding. Spending so much effort policing marijuana users is a waste of time, energy, and money, all of which could be better spent on things such as schools, hospitals, and housing in poorer areas of the country. The war on drugs didn’t result in anything except more people of color in jail; it’s time to try something else.