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Team Trump tries to push back the clock against legal pot

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Although his own investigative panel recommended decriminalizing marijuana, Nixon's aides later cited his animus toward hippies and black political activists as leading him to reject that move.

The result has been a half-century of a policy that still has a disproportionately negative impact on nonwhites. African-Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites, according to university-reviewed studies by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, even though their usage rates are similar.

At the same time, people suffering from a variety of ailments ranging from glaucoma to social anxiety can, with a physician's recommendation, procure marijuana to alleviate their symptoms in states that allow it. What will happen to those folks, among others currently engaged with the industry, has now been thrown into a new state of uncertainty by Sessions' move.

For now, the impact can vary according to the jurisdiction of each U.S. attorney. The political reaction has crossed party lines. Republicans Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the first states to legalize recreational grass, expressed a sense of betrayal. Before his confirmation, Sessions assured Gardner that he would leave the former policy in place, Gardner tweeted.

Colorado's state Senate Democrats took it in a spirit of a good Rocky Mountain high. "We'll give Jeff Sessions our legal pot," they tweeted, "when he pries it from our warm, extremely interesting to look at hands."

No wonder they're smiling. Heading into this year's midterm elections, Sessions' move could prove to be a nice gift to Democrats, alienating from the Grand Old Party the sort of young, independent swing voters that both parties want to attract and mobilize.

We'd all be better off if the federal government left this national drug experiment to the laboratory of the states. Sessions, a famously strong believer in states' rights on other matters, shouldn't turn away from that principle on this issue, when it could do the most good.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2018 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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