Bright spot to Trump’s ‘War on Marijuana’? It could unite state’s Dem, GOP leaders

Ever since Trump nabbed the keys to the White House, many of us have been feeling like this country is locked in an unending, maddening version of the children’s game, “Mother, May I?” where we take two tiny steps forward only to have the administration scream, “Take five HUGE jumps back.”

Trump and his friends are so relentless in their quest to undo every single thing Barack Obama ever touched, cement deals that financially benefit themselves and their families, dismantle “big government,” and decimate public safety nets, we never really know what’s coming next.

Take last week, for example: One day, they’re trying to drill for oil off cherished and protected coastlines in places like Washington, Oregon and Florida. The next, they’re sticking it to voters who legalized marijuana.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee summed it up perfectly in his Jan. 4 speech opposing U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Obama-era policy that paved the way for voter-backed, legalized marijuana in states like Washington: “It’s disappointing to see the administration want to go backwards. The rest of the world wants to follow us.”

If there is even one bright spot to Trump stepping up his mad game of “Mother, May I?” it’s that it seems to be — albeit very slowly — bringing some Democrats and Republicans together again, to fight for policies their constituents support.

Look at Inslee’s speech regarding Sessions’ war on marijuana last week: not only was the governor joined by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Democrat Rep. David Sawyer, but our own Republican Sen. Ann Rivers also joined the fray, expressing her disapproval of the federal administration’s move against states that have legalized marijuana.

Noting that it took bipartisan effort to help the marijuana industry thrive in Washington, Rivers said of this state’s politicians: “We have been extremely united. We anticipate that we will maintain our system and program.”

The voters have certainly been united on this issue. Polls show the majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana. More than half of all U.S. states have OK’d it for medicinal purposes. Eight states have legalized the plant for recreational use, and three others — Michigan, New Jersey and Vermont — are attempting to do so in 2018.

Enforcing marijuana laws is extremely expensive. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, states spend more than $3.5 billion a year on marijuana law enforcement. What’s more, between 2001 and 2010, nearly all of the arrests related to marijuana — 88 percent — were for possessing the drug, not for dealing or distributing.

“Our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed,” noted U.S. Sen. Cory Booker in 2017, after introducing a bill to legalize marijuana across the country. “They don’t make our communities any safer — instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year.”

States that have legalized marijuana are not only saving money by not enforcing laws that punish low-level users, but are actually making money from taxing marijuana sales.

As Sen. Rivers pointed out last week, the marijuana industry is expected to bring about $750 million into Washington State’s coffers this year alone. About 60 percent of that revenue goes to public health programs. Another $30 million goes to cities like Vancouver, which have allowed marijuana sales inside their borders, and more than $200 million will flow into the state’s general fund.

Inslee and Rivers are right to stand up to Trump on this issue and push back against some of this administration’s daily insanity. We hope they continue to push hard against a federal government that sees no problem ignoring the will of the voters. We also hope voters will push back this year, when they have the chance to say “yay” or “nay” to local, state and national politicians who have backed Trump.

As Inslee noted last week: “We should believe an uproar of public sentiment can change policy.”