The Attorney General of the United States, former Alabama Senator and possible Wood Elf Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is reported to be ending the Federal stance of tolerating State-level legalization of cannabis. Sessions had made overtures of taking this step throughout 2017, but in 2018 he now seems committed to expanding the failed War on Drugs back into cannabis. This flies in the face of President Donald Trump pledging on the campaign trail to not choose an Attorney General who would not respect State's rights, but we are evidently not supposed to take the President literally.
The past decades have shown that attempts to stop Americans from ingesting drugs have not been successful - while incarceration has nearly septupled since 1970 when President Nixon started the War on Drugs (ballooning the cost of the Justice system in the process), the flow of drugs has not stopped. Keeping drugs illegal keeps all of their processing - and their profits - in the hands of gangs and criminal organizations that spread violence and discord.
This discord is not just felt in America - most pertinent and visible is the violence in Mexico and Central America that is funded by American dollars via local drug traffickers. Internecine gang warfare makes life hard for the involved and uninvolved alike, encouraging migration to safer areas such as the United States and exacerbating nationalist tensions.
The rollback of cannabis legalization exacerbates all of this. By making cannabis profits a monopoly for the black market, we are not only getting less funding for schools, roads, medicaid and other social services - we are ensuring that the funding is instead going to the vicious tattooed bogeyman that serve as the raison d'etre for the War on Drugs. It's senseless, it's self-destructive, and it does not serve America's best interest.
The question is then posed - whose interest does it serve? It certainly helps drug traffickers. It also serves those who profit from the business of prisons. And it also serves politicians who campaign on being hard on crime - as long as their electorate sees what they are doing as actually decreasing crime. This must be interpreted in the context of Latino and Black Americans being incarcerated more frequently for the same crimes as White Americans - most notably, drug offenses. Could the War on Drugs be a subversive method to marginalize and politically neuter racial minorities? According to Richard Nixon's Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehlichman, it was exactly that -
"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
Sessions' decision to double down on this flawed and absurd doctrine is based on a subjective moral order that has no basis in the real world. There is no doubt that this will be reversed at some time - the question is how many people will have their one and only life wasted in a prison they do not belong in, for a prison we should not be funding, for a war we should not be waging.