United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Cole Memo, which had previously instructed the Justice Department not to target states that had passed medicinal and recreational marijuana legislation. For libertarians, the move is particularly disappointing given that Trump pledged to take a hands off approach to marijuana on the campaign trail, stating that he would not interfere with state legislation.
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner came out as a leading voice against the Sessions decision, and vowed to place a hold on Justice Department nominees until the matter was addressed. While Gardner himself opposed legalization of recreational marijuana in his home state, his understanding of the principles of states’ rights and federalism prompted him to take the administration to task for the change of course.
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Marijuana is no longer the domain of basement grow rooms and Mom and Pop type operations: it is now an industry worth an estimated USD $8 billion annually, and is filling state coffers with tax revenue as well. In Washington state alone, the marijuana industry paid USD $280 million in taxes in the last fiscal year.
Libertarian icon and former presidential candidate Ron Paul went even further than Gardner, calling for Sessions to be fired during a CNN appearance. He argued, “people should have the right or responsibility of dealing with what is dangerous…once you get into this thing about government is going to protect us against ourselves, there’s no protection of liberty.”
In a world of increasing government regulations, it is refreshing to see that, at least on this issue, there appears to be greater appetite for personal freedom and responsibility. It is now hardly considered extreme, for either the Democrats or Republicans, for politicians to suggest that adults should be able to make their own choices regarding whether or not they smoke marijuana.
Nonetheless, that is a far cry from suggesting that marijuana or other drugs are healthy or beneficial. But it is high time that we move away from the “nanny state” mentality: the government is ultimately not responsible for your diet, exercise, drinking, or lifestyle.
It is time for the libertarian movement to advocate for the principle of self-ownership across the board: personal choice, and the accompanying personal responsibility that go hand in hand.
Fortunately, even as Sessions seeks to target legal marijuana, Congress is moving forward with legislation to thwart that effort. It’s called House Resolution 1227: the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. It would remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug, and end federal prosecution for marijuana offenses in states that have approved marijuana legalization.