This Alex Halperin piece demonstrates both the pathetic response of the marijuana industry to the coming attacks from Attorney General Nathan Bedford Forrest and how that industry represents not all users of marijuana, but rather the wealthy white users who control the legal weed operations.
The legal marijuana industry, which is anticipated to top $6 billion in sales this year, also has reason to fear Sessions, but its response has been much more muted. The National Cannabis Industry Association, the industry’s largest lobby, released a statement saying that it looked forward to working with Attorney General Sessions. They think it’s safer to weather his tenure at the Justice Department than to fight it.
After the nomination, the pro-pot activist Tom Angell told BuzzFeed, “From a political lens, I think reversing course on [marijuana] and trying to shut down broadly popular state laws, that’s going to be a huge distraction from all the other things they care a lot more about,” Angell said. “It’s a fight that they don’t want to pick.” Put another way: Marijuana proponents believe that President Trump and Attorney General Sessions will be too busy tracking Muslims and deporting noncitizens to go after state-legal pot, which also happens to be more popular than not among Republicans. The industry expects the more vulnerable populations to function as its human shields.
This is utterly revolting. It is morally bankrupt. It is literally counting on Trump and Sessions going after Muslims and black people as a cover for white people getting stoned. How can one actually utter that statement in good faith? That is an inherently racist and Islamophobic position to take. Moreover, it ignores that African-Americans and Muslims may in fact also smoke marijuana. But these aren’t the marijuana users the National Cannabis Industry Association cares about. They care about white people in Denver and Portland. If the War on Drugs wants to target black and Latino kids in the city, a whole lot of white marijuana smokers simply won’t care so long as they are left alone. This is also politically stupid because it’s quite simple for Sessions to go after legal weed on his first day in office by reversing the two Obama DOJ memos that set up the possibility for legalization.
This is also a moment to worth noting that while the War on Drugs is a justice issue, legal marijuana is not necessarily a justice issue per se because it’s entirely possible the already existing disparities in drug enforcement by race continues. And there’s little reason to believe the weed industry is more justice-oriented than any other industry. It’s run by capitalists and, let’s face it, has a lot of consumers who are one-issue voters, if they can be motivated to actually show up to vote for it. Halperin is entirely correct–the smart move is for the legal marijuana industry to actively oppose Sessions, identify the industry with opposing the entire War on Drugs, look to make allies in opposing the racism with said war and the rest of the institutionalized racism to come, and build support within progressive communities. But it won’t, possibly to its doom if Sessions targets it.