At Liberty by Adam Sullivan

Grassley planted seeds for Sessions' marijuana crackdown

Trump administration reverses Obama-era states' rights policy

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., confer during a hearing on Oct. 18, 2017. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Zach Gibson.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., confer during a hearing on Oct. 18, 2017. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Zach Gibson.

The new year marks a new chapter in America’s war on drugs, thanks in part to Iowa’s senior senator.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week rescinded federal guidelines against prosecuting marijuana cases in states which have legalized the substance. Advocates worry that decision could clear the way for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana, and halt reform efforts in other states like Iowa.

Sessions’ outdated attitude toward drugs has been widely reported in the national media since he was picked by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Justice more than a year ago.

However, it is Iowa’s own U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, not his longtime Capitol Hill colleague Sessions, who has been the federal government’s leading advocate for cracking down on states’ legal marijuana programs. Sessions is harvesting the flowers of Grassley’s yearslong crusade against legal weed.

As states like Colorado and Washington loosened controls on recreational marijuana under former president Barack Obama, Grassley repeatedly slammed the Obama administration for its soft enforcement.

“Time and again we have seen the Obama Administration decline to enforce laws that it finds inconvenient, or that it simply doesn’t like,” Grassley said in a prepared statement in 2013, after the Obama administration signaled it would not prioritize marijuana enforcement.

Again the next year, Grassley blasted the administration for giving financial institutions leeway to do business with the marijuana industry: “This is just one more area in which the Obama Administration is undermining our system of checks and balances and the rule of law.”

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Marijuana is one issue where Grassley has consistently reached across party lines, working alongside Democrats with similarly flawed interpretations of the 10th Amendment.

One of Grassley’s favorite information sources about drugs is Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-marijuana group led in part by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Clinton administration drug czar Barry McCaffrey.

He also works closely with noted liberal U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, like when he sent a letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2015, warning the United States was in violation of United Nations’ drug control conventions.

Anyone who has followed conservative politics over the last decade will recognize the glaring irony of a Republican officeholder calling for the federal government to obey the United Nations’ commands. Our party is supposed to be the one that’s against world government.

The unfortunate reality for drug warriors is the federal government has no way to enforce prohibition. The government’s own figures prove it — in 2013, before recreational sales started, an estimated 20 million Americans had used marijuana in the past month.

So rest assured, Sessions and Trump are not coming for your weed. They may be delaying the inevitable, but marijuana still is winning America’s war on drugs.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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