MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
The first time in many years I was just too tired to party on New Year’s Eve. It was a sad rite of passage – I was wondering if I was getting too old or just wanted a peaceful transition into the New Year. I am sure I wasn’t the only one sitting on the couch waiting for the ball to drop to signify the coming of 2018.
However, something happened on CNN which convinced me that the reason I was watching the bad TV special was when people were getting exceptionally stoned on live television.
I could not believe what I was seeing – was this an accident, a mistake, was it a joke played on the news anchor by the cameraman? Was I watching a CNN anchor smoking pot on TV?
I thought I was in another world, and then when I realized it was real, I felt it was historically significant.
During CNN’s coverage of the year-end festivities in Times Square, the cable news network aired an additional live segment from Denver. That’s where anchor Randi Kaye and several enthusiastic members of high society held and interacted with legal marijuana in front of the cameras. But did the CNN anchor smoke pot on live TV?
The piece showed Kaye holding a joint for the audience to see, shouting, “This is for you Andy!” as a nod to CNN’s Andy Cohen, who hosted the New Year’s Eve show along with Anderson Cooper.
Kaye even assisted one guy in firing up his gas mask bong in front of millions of television viewers. This, in the grand scheme in the fight to end prohibition.
Believe it or not, some were not happy with CNN’s willingness to openly embrace the marijuana culture.
Some went to Twitter to express their outrage.
But was it warranted? Did the CNN anchor smoke pot on live TV? Whether she did or not wasn’t the point to these angry individuals. They argued that since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, CNN should face consequences for their permissive move. They called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to swoop in and punish the news organization for promoting drug use on national TV.
Others seemed somewhat unnerved that CNN televised pot smoking activities. Especially since thousands of people are still in prison for doing much of the same.
A few Americans voiced concerns over the televised pot smoking leading to the end of a credible nation.
The day following the broadcast, Fox News host Laura Ingraham flipped out on social media, posting on Twitter that all of this legal weed business would lead to “more potheads, increase in cases of schizophrenia, psychosis, more impaired driving.
Of course, marijuana advocates crawled out of the woodwork to chastise her for the negative comments. Many folks gave Ingraham hell for having such a narrow view of the subject, while others, including her fans, encouraged her to give legal marijuana more consideration.
CNN host Anderson Cooper witnessed the broadcast unfold with the rest of the nation. He has since come out to defend his colleague.
Cooper told Stephen Colbert earlier this week that Kaye’s decision to cover the New Year’s parties with marijuana was not a problem for him. He said: “First of all, it’s legal in Colorado. We are grown adults and she did not smoke obviously. The whole thing surprised me as much as anyone else.”
The longtime CNN host later joked with Colbert about “not really” being surprised that legal marijuana was becoming increasingly widespread across the country.
This begs the question – are there really that many Americans that are that anachronistic about the use of legal cannabis?
By the way for the record, Randi Kaye did not smoke any marijuana on camera.
Ironically, just days after the network bong hit heard round the world aired on CNN, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he would be rescinding a policy from the Obama administration that had discouraged prosecutors in states where marijuana was legalized from bringing charges for marijuana-related crimes, unless they involved distribution to minors, revenue sale benefiting gangs or cartels and a few other federal priorities. In its place, federal prosecutors would be given discretion (not guidance) to pursue marijuana-related prosecutions.
PHOTO CREDIT: ALABAMA PUBLIC RADIO
The announcement was a reversal of a memo authored by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013, who wrote the Obama-era guidelines after Colorado and Washington voted to decriminalize marijuana for recreational use. And it managed to tick off a number of lawmakers from those states as well as the eight others, in addition to Washington D.C., who have voted to legalize recreational marijuana use since.
Sessions is a longtime foe of looser marijuana laws and has taken a far stricter and more antiquated approach to combating drug use in general. Though he put on a softer facade in his confirmation hearing, advocates for legalizing marijuana had anticipated that such a decision would come eventually from his office.
The Justice Department itself had trouble explaining why Sessions was making his move now and what immediate ramifications there would be for the decision. In a morning teleconference with reporters, a senior DOJ official simply said that “U.S. Attorney’s offices need to determine what cases need to be brought.” As to whether or not this decision would lead to more marijuana prosecutions, there was no definitive answer.
By giving discretion to federal prosecutors, the new DOJ policy could amount to nothing at all. But it sets up a potential battle between states and the federal government. In terms of enforcement, members of state governments were left scrambling as to what would be required of them in coming days and weeks. Others were more adamant about simply ignoring the federal position and preserving their state’s individual laws.
The new policy also comes as commercial marijuana is beginning to boom. Of the eight states that have legalized the drug, six have decided to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. The industry has ballooned in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska and most recently California, where recreational marijuana sales began earlier this week.
It’s unclear how Sessions intends to actually act on this rollback. Some have suggested he made his memo purposefully vague to create confusion about how the new approach will be enforced. If people don’t know what the DOJ is going to do, some may be deterred from acting in any way that could put themselves in jeopardy.
This is sloppy because now users of marijuanna are now using it at the risk of being cornered by prosecutors that act on a whim, which is a confusing way to enforce laws.
Weed-related arrests already outnumber violent crime arrests and bear a lot of the responsibility for our broken criminal justice system. When marijuana use is criminalized and strictly enforced, it disproportionally affects people of color, and especially black people.
If you use weed for medical purposes, you’re probably safer than if you use it recreationally. The 2014 Rohrabacher-Bluemenauer Amendment prohibits the DOJ from using its funds to enforce federal medical marijuana laws in states where it’s legalized.
There’s no law that prohibits federal interference in state’s recreational marijuana policies. However, since most arrests for personal marijuana possession are conducted by police officers, not federal prosecutors, it seems likely that local departments will continue to enforce their states’ laws as they have been.
Still, the DOJ can put pressure on police departments to follow its agenda. In November, for example, when awarding nearly $100 million in grants to departments around the country, the DOJ prioritized those that complied with Sessions’ recommendations for suppressing undocumented immigration.
Sessions move also indicates in my opinion that our government is not serious about the opioid epidemic.
Both cannabis and opioid drugs are prescribed by doctors to help patients deal with chronic pain, and cannabis is considered to be the least dangerous and addictive of the two. In Colorado, the number of opioid deaths decreased by over 6 percent in the two years after it allowed recreational marijuana, according to a study published last year in the American Journal of Public Health.
The DOJ has limited resources and seems to be prioritizing spending them on cracking down on marijuana as opposed to stopping the opioid epidemic. Fewer Americans died in the Vietnam War than died of opioid overdoses in 2016, but no American has ever died from overdosing on marijuana.
If Sessions is using this decision to overturn some liberal policy created by Barack Obama – he really needs the facts in determining that synthetic opioid use went up substantially after Obama care.
You cannot deny that under Obama care these opioid pain killers were pushed on to the American public for pain management.
At the very same time, he kept poppy fields owned by hard line Muslim extremists intact – poppy fields that were used to produce more drugs that were then sold to finance Islamic extremists trained to kill American soldiers.
He also helped to facilitate the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine by one of the world’s most dangerous Muslim terrorist groups, Hezbollah, here in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first identified prescription drug abuse as a major problem in 2011, when it released statistics that showed more people died from opioid overdoses than from car crashes.
Heroin is often connected to prescription drug abuse because it is cheaper and more available than painkillers such as Oxycontin. Patients can get addicted to painkillers after receiving them from a doctor and then turn to heroin.
PHOTO CREDIT: ORGANICANDHEALTHY.ORG
Obama held Opioid Awareness Week and recreational marijuana use became legal in some states on his watch, and statistically speaking, it has brought down the opiod problems in states where it is legal.
Whatever your views on the health benefits or risks of marijuana, what Sessions has done is really stupid and it is just bad policy.
What happened to Republicans and conservatives advocating for state powers and against an all-powerful central government? Sessions’ disregard for the tenets of federalism by infringing on the rights of states to govern their citizens the way the people like to be governed is a new low for his tenure as Attorney General.
In addition to expanding police power with respect to asset forfeiture, Sessions has become the epitome of big overreaching government in the Trump administration. Not even President Trump wants the federal government to infringe on state prerogatives when it comes to their laws on marijuana.
Not only is it bad policy from a state perspective, it also puts the decriminalization issue back into the fold. If federal prosecutors are now able to enforce federal law in states where marijuana is legal, you’ll find more people enter the prison system for doing something their state government chose to legalize.
The criminal justice response to drug use has failed and Jeff Sessions is a failure at being the Attorney General.
Scientific evidence does not appear to be a high priority for Sessions but he wishes to create what he calls a hostile attitude to the drug culture.
That is it – divide the country even more and what is worse are the reactions from people like Laura Ingraham who freak out when CNN decided to cover a Marijuana party in a place where it is legal to use it.
How old are we?
How well has the drug war worked in the past?
Now, mind you I am well aware of the fact that there are potential harms associated with any substance use, harms that include abuse, dependence and addiction, and a variety of behavioral and physical health implications.
However, Sessions is an anachronism, saying things like that marijuana is a gateway drug, meaning it leads to the use of harder drugs such as crack or heroin.
The evidence they cite is that among users of harder drugs, the majority used marijuana at some point. What they fail to appreciate is that the gateway argument also requires that among marijuana users, the majority of them use harder drugs. That is not the case, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.
I am sure I could find that those who use crack or heroin may have been breast fed at one point – or even had their first taste of Pepsi when they were kids, then we can use the same stupid logic that both Pepsi and breast milk are gateway drugs.
Sessions wants the war on drugs to be alive and well despite the fact that the vast majority of the experts and the majority of the public have concluded it is a dismal failure.
In fact, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center indicates that nearly three-quarters believe that the government should provide treatment for people who have drug problems rather than prosecuting people for drug use. Moreover, between 55 percent and 65 percent believe marijuana should be legalized.
Drug abuse is a medical disorder that requires a public health response.
While the mainstream media is focusing on whether or not President Trump is mentally fit to lead, maybe they should pay attention to whether or not Jeff Sessions is fit to be anything more than an old man that should be confined to a home and forced to watch “Murder She Wrote.”
Jeff Sessions should come to reality and start living in the 21st century. If only someone had invited him to a party in high school, maybe this wouldn’t be happening.