Almost an entire continent separates the states of Washington and Alabama, and on some political subjects the philosophical gap may be even wider. For the most part, what happens in those states stays in those states, but that may change — emphasis on the “may” — on the issue of marijuana enforcement, now that former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is serving as U.S. attorney general under the Trump administration.
Sessions is a longtime foe of loosening marijuana laws; last year he famously said, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Earlier this month he fired a warning shot to the governors of Washington and three other states — Colorado, Oregon and Alaska — that have legalized the production, sale and use of recreational marijuana. In the letter, Sessions claimed there were breakdowns in security, distribution and controlled use of pot in the four states.
The letter raised concerns among marijuana proponents that the live-and-let-live approach of the Obama administration, which called for allowing the state-regulated systems as long as the states enforced laws that ban sale to minors and keep pot from being transported across state lines. But despite an ominous tone, the Sessions letter didn’t spell out any specific changes.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson took quick issue with the letter, saying a specific concern that Sessions cited, a lack of medical marijuana regulations that led to a growth in the black market, were dealt with when the Legislature merged the recreational and medical systems in 2016. Inslee and Ferguson point to state Department of Health surveys that conclude marijuana use by minors has not increased in Washington since legalization. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found rates of auto-crash fatalities in Washington and Colorado were no