Who Changed Trump's Mind About Leaving Marijuana Up To The States?

A few days ago, Roger Stone sent out a VICE News article, "The GOP has a marijuana problem only Trump can fix," reminding its readers that Trump said multiple times on the campaign trail that the issue of marijuana legalization "should be up to the states." 

It came as a bit of a surprise when Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced a major policy change last week that under the Trump administration, legal weed isn’t up the states at all. In another rollback of an Obama-era policy, Sessions gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases at their own discretion, even in places where weed is now legal under state law. Sessions’ move has left several Republican lawmakers and Trump allies fuming. They warn that not only does the president appear to be breaking a campaign pledge and putting himself at risk of alienating a swath of his base, he’s jeopardizing the long-term future of the GOP, since young voters overwhelmingly support legalization. Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, who formed a bipartisan group called the U.S. Cannabis Coalition to push for legalization, was especially irked.

“This is not only bad public policy, it’s bad political policy,” Stone told VICE News. "It’s a vote loser, and it’s inconsistent with what the president promised the American people."

Stone went so far as to speculate that Sessions may have gone rogue and changed the federal marijuana enforcement policy without running it by Trump first.

"I don’t even know if the president knows about this change," he said. "The last time I spoke to the president on this issue, which was a couple months ago, there was no change on this, he was supportive of states’ rights to make their own decision."

Asked about the discrepancy on Thursday, however, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that Trump had changed his mind. "The president believes in enforcing federal law," she said.

Regardless of Trump’s personal beliefs, it’s clear there’s a weed schism within the GOP that could affect the party’s popularity at the polls for years to come. According to Gallup, 64% of Americans overall support marijuana legalization compared to just 51% of Republicans.

As Ted Lieu put it when we spoke with him about it last week, "It’s funny-- but not actually funny-- that states’ rights matter to the Trump Administration and Republicans only when it’s politically expedient. AG Session’s vendetta against democratically legalized marijuana is a humongous waste of federal resources and has proven to be unpopular at the state and national level."

Putting it into perspective last week, Jasper Ward of Green Wave Democrats wrote that "campaigns are what candidates make them about. The double edged sword for Democratic candidates in 2018 is that there are so, so many awful things going on that there are too many things campaigns can be about. The common denominator, of course, is Trump and the Republicans have set the train ablaze and aimed it right at the 99% of Americans tied to the tracks. Trump is insanely and angrily opening the throttle to full speed, and the GOP is standing off safely to the side counting their money and watching it happen." He asserted that "the people who are really going to save America (and maybe the world?) are the challengers out there in red districts and against horrible Democrats like Dan Lipinski and Debbie Wassermann Schultz. They are the ones who are not only going to rush the cabin and stop the train, but because they are not infected by the last two decades of greyscale that has touched everyone in Washington-- including Democrats-- they are going to chart a new path forward for the 2020s."

This week gave us a perfect example of the dichotomy of Establishment DC Dems not doing enough to save the country and Progressive Challenger Dems stepping up to chart the new way forward: When Jeff Sessions announced he was suspending the Justice Department memo that prevented US Attorneys from going after the marijuana industry in legal states, the reactions of most Establishment DC Dems showed why Democrats are in the mess we are in.

Sure, there were a few progressive stalwarts like Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) who were willing to take Sessions on directly. Beto: "After our country has spent more than $1 trillion on the war on drugs, leading the world in the size of our prison population and seeing marijuana just as available today as it was at the start of the war on drugs-- and just as the majority of Americans have come to the conclusion that we must end the federal prohibition on marijuana, and most states have followed suit-- I can't understand how the Trump administration would take us back to the dark ages of the drug war.

Blue America has a new fundraising page for progressive challengers who are actively campaigning for legalization. You can check out-- and hopefully contribute to-- the candidates here.

The progressive candidate in the Illinois race to replace GOP incumbent Rodney Davis, Dr. David Gill, an emergency room physician told us that he’s “amazed by the gall of politicians like Jeff Sessions, who adhere to the concept of 'States' Rights' only when it suits their needs and desires.

“Mr. Sessions is a complete and utter hypocrite. The war on drugs has failed to decrease drug use and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Current policy also disproportionately impacts communities of color. It is finally time to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. Legalization of marijuana has proven to successfully stimulate the economy in Colorado. This policy will generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and reduce the huge financial burden posed by incarcerating non-violent offenders. As an emergency medicine physician, I rarely see adverse events related to marijuana; in contrast, trauma caused by legal alcohol always keeps my Emergency Room busy."

And Derrick Crowe is the progressive Democrat running in the Austin/San Antonio district where science denier Lamar Smith is retiring. "Marijuana should be legal," he told us, "and Jeff Sessions' obsession with destroying families and communities by jailing people for marijuana offenses is inhumane and puritanical. At the same time that Trump and the GOP are trying to cut people off from their health coverage under the ACA, Sessions is working to end folks' ability to use marijuana to alleviate terrible pain in states that allow medical marijuana. And, at a time when African Americans are almost four times as likely than Whites to be jailed for marijuana use despite similar usage rates, it's a racial justice and criminal justice reform issue. It's clear that there's no level of pain too great or injustice to deep to get in the way of Republicans' efforts to please their donors."

Here’s an idea…call it a ‘no brainer’— Let’s provide positive reinforcement for these candidates.

Let’s make sure the people driving the train are a new generation of leaders who are not afraid to take a principled stand that is contrary to DC ‘Savvy Democrats’ who assure us this issue is meaningless (and therefore will not make it a priority when we take back the majority).

Let’s support Green Wave Democrats!



Blue America Welcomes Beto O'Rourke

At the end of May, progressives and reformers had a big win in Texas to celebrate. Texas? Well... sort of sure. El Paso is its own unique little corner of Texas, closer, some people like to say, to Los Angeles than to Houston. And in a different time zone from the rest of the state. The big victory was undeniable-- an entirely grassroots campaign by a reform-Democrat on the El Paso City Council, Beto O'Rourke, that swept away longtime Congressman and Machine Democrat Silvestre Reyes, a cog in the Military Industrial Complex wheel.

When I asked Beto what topic he would most like to discuss at our Blue America chat at today (noon, El Paso time, 11am, PT) he didn't hesitate for a moment, although it's a topic a lot of Democrats shy away from: immigration. Beto, 39 years old and the father of 3 small children, is a 4th-generation El Pasoan, a graduate of Columbia University who returned to El Paso and started a technology and media company downtown--not to mention the band, Foss with Cedric Bixler-Zavala who went on to play in At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Cedric went on to other bands-- and Beto went on to City Hall, winning 3 elections as a no-nonsense reformer, where he opposed vigilante Minutemen groups on the border, opposed the wasteful and failed so-called "war on drugs," and pushed through a forward-looking downtown revitalization plan. He was effective and controversial and his enemies kept trying to recall him... but readers of El Paso's biggest weekly voted him the city's Best Elected Official-- beating both Mayor John Cook and, ominously, Congressman Silvestre Reyes.

TX-16, Beto's district, is one of the bluest in Texas. When most of the state was giving McCain a 55-44% landslide over Obama, El Paso voters gave Obama a solid two-thirds victory. Both Gore and Kerry also won in TX-16 while most of the state rallied around its former governor. Beto's victory in the primary stunned DC insiders. They saw a business-as-usual member of their own corrupt little club fall to a steely-eyed reformer. For Party bosses that's scarier than the opposite party winning a seat, which probably explains why the DCCC is completely ignoring Beto's race. That has a lot to do with why Blue America is stepping in with a fill throttle endorsement and why we're asking you to help us make sure he beats the Republican candidate who hopes to flood the district with corporate money.

Beto's adamantly pro-Choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-immigrant stands have angered the haters and bigots and they're determined to defeat him. The DCCC is uninterested in helping. You think they want to hear things like this?

"El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua are home to over 2.5 million people from all over the hemisphere, and together we form the largest bi-national community in the world. This is where Latin America and North America meet, where cultures, economies, families and histories come together.

"The numbers alone are staggering: $80 billion in trade and millions of pedestrians and automobiles cross the five international bridges that connect our two countries annually.

"But our imprint on history is incalculable.

"It was in this bi-national community that the Mexican revolution was planned and launched; it’s here that millions of immigrants first experienced this country as they made their way deeper into the United States, making El Paso the Ellis Island for those coming from Latin America; and it’s El Paso’s history of tolerance and progressiveness that has broken so many national barriers when it comes to race and ethnicity (we elected the first Mexican-American mayor of a major city in 1957; we won the NCAA basketball championships in 1966 with the first all-black starting five; and we were the first city in the former Confederacy to desegregate places of public accommodation).

"Our connection to each other and our isolation from the centers of power, in Washington D.C. and Mexico City D.F., have made us stronger, more self reliant, and less influenced by the conventional wisdom from our respective country’s capitals.

"It means that when we look at the issues related to the border-- issues like immigration, security, trade or Plan Merida-- we understand them better than any community in America, because we live them.

"When D.C. wants to build billion-dollar walls to keep people out, we know it’s money wasted that could be better spent connecting our two countries. When we invest in military helicopters and drug war materiel in Mexico, instead of in schools and social infrastructure, we know that we are condemning our neighbor to more violence and failed policies.

"We see immigration as a huge benefit to this country-- one that fuels our economy, enriches our culture and helps positively define who we are, both to this country and to others around the world.

"We know that we’re offered a false choice when asked to decide between security and mobility. We understand that cities like ours, with large immigrant populations, are the safest in the country.

"Whether you look at it through the prism of economics, demographics or culture-- we are the future of this country. I look forward to sharing a positive vision of the U.S./Mexico border and helping ensure that the best values of our party and our country are reflected in our national policy."

Beto is part of the future of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, part of the future of a new Texas and part of the future of our dynamic country. Please help him write history in November.




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