January 7, 2018

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being lambasted as the uncool parent in Washington, and maybe the universe..."

"... for rescinding an Obama Administration directive that decriminalized marijuana in states that have legalized the drug. But even if you're a legalizer, you should give the AG some credit for forcing a debate on the rule of law that Congress should settle.... [I]nstead of taking the cop-out of blaming Mr. Sessions, legalizers in Congress ought to have the courage of their convictions and try to decriminalize pot nationwide. Let Senators Cory Gardner and Kamala Harris persuade their colleagues that what's good for Colorado and California is good for the country."

Say the editors of The Wall Street Journal.

It's annoying that you can't read that without a subscription, but I've quoted enough to allow you to enjoy the subtle political snark that goes along with what is a good policy proposal.

It's too easy for liberals to take shots at Sessions. Let's see some leadership in Congress, where the real work needs to be done, and let's see it from Democrats who — we keep hearing — are presidential material.

Gardner and Harris currently represent people in states who've said — through their democratic process — that they want legalized marijuana, so let's see these Senators show what their leadership is made of. They don't have to be populists ,of course, and that's not the traditional view of what Senators are supposed to do.*

But I'd like to see journalists do what they are supposed to do and question Gardner and Harris about whether they will lead the way on this issue, and — if they won't — make them explain why they decline to give their people what they want.

___________________

* From Robert A. Caro's "Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III" (pp. 7-8):
“The use of the Senate,” [James] Madison said, “is to consist in its proceeding with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” It should, he said, be “an anchor against popular fluctuations.” He drew for parallels on classical history, which, he said, “informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a Senate.” In two of the three “long-lived” republics of antiquity, Sparta and Rome, and probably in the third— Carthage (about whose governmental institutions less was known)— senators served for life. “These examples … when compared with the fugitive and turbulent existence of other ancient republics, [are] very instructive proofs of the necessity of some institution that will blend stability with liberty.” Thomas Jefferson had been in Paris during the Convention, serving as minister to France. When he returned, he asked George Washington over breakfast why the President had agreed to a two-house Congress. According to a story that may be apocryphal, Washington replied with his own question: “Why did you pour your tea into that saucer?” And when Jefferson answered, “To cool it,” Washington said, “Just so. We pour House legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The resolution providing for a two-house Congress was agreed to by the Constitutional Convention with almost no debate or dissent. 
ADDED: Who the hell pours their tea into a saucer to cool it anymore? Speaking of uncool... We're drinking coffee. We like it hot. It comes in a mug. You don't get a saucer. And if you did, and you poured your hot beverage into the saucer and drank from the saucer, people would regard you as a lout.

59 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

"the necessity of some institution that will blend stability with liberty"

Stability...

Fortunately, our President is a "very stable genius."

Big Mike said...

Or the Supreme Court could decide that Wickard v Filburne and Gonzales v Raich were wrongly decided and overturn the precedents. Though that would mean Thomas was right, as usual.

Time to get rid of law enforcement by wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

rehajm said...

But I'd like to see journalists do what they are supposed to do and question Gardner and Harris...

An excellent observation and a good move by Sessions. It's one thing to huddle in the basement in private with your political friends on the issue but how does the legalization push square with an open campaign. We're always reminded by our weed loving friends here about how acceptable it is. Let's see the Democrats try to square that in the face of the existing opioid epidemic. Of course there's absolutely no connection between the two. Nope. None at all. But tell that to the great unwashed...

mesquito said...

I'm confident that the federal courts will find the right to get baked somewhere in the Constitution and we will no longer have to worry our pretty little heads about it.

Paul from Decatur, GA said...

remember Madison's comments concerned a Senate that was not popularly elected.

Ann Althouse said...

"Or the Supreme Court could decide that Wickard v Filburne and Gonzales v Raich were wrongly decided and overturn the precedents. Though that would mean Thomas was right, as usual."

That would only get you to having a right to grow your own plant for personal home use.

That's not the burgeoning commerce going on in Colorado and California. There's no way overturning Raich and Wickard v. Filburn would undercut the commerce power to ban commerce in marijuana.

PB said...

Democrats got so comfortable with "the ends justify the means" actions of the Obama administration in ignoring so many laws, they must feel some permanent precedent was set.

Seth Mitchell said...

Attorney General Sessions is known, and often criticized for being, a zealous advocate for the war on drugs. The war on drugs, at least as it applies to marijuana, ended some time ago. Federal law hasn’t caught up. The Senator from Colorado need not become a member of the resistance by stopping appointments. The WSJ’s position is correct. Change the federal law. AG Sessions, who is just following existing law, will change too.

AllenS said...

Reading the local western WI weekly newspaper, I see every week that the police have cited numerous individuals for THC. The war on pot never ended around here.

retail lawyer said...

Kamala of California will not attempt to legislate. Kamala will choose to RESIST. Its more fun and noble. Its exotic, like Kamala herself. Its so cool, it almost Palestinian. Have we forgotten the Fierce Urgency of Now?

robother said...

Yes to the WSJ position. I saw a piece in yesterday's Denver Post praising Cory Gardiner's courage in denouncing Sessions and had the same thought: real political courage would be repealing the federal criminalization of marijuana and leaving it up to the States.

Instead, we have this inevitably political Obama DOJ policy of non-enforcement as a matter of prosecutorial discretion. (Why this doesn't render the federal law void for vagueness in application is an interesting legal question.) It invites States to nullify federal law, and sure enough, we now get California effectively trying to nullify federal immigration law, by outlawing its law enforcement (and even private business) from cooperating with ICE enforcement.

Scott Gustafson said...

The congress should be held accountable. Fix the law or live with the law. They got a pass on Obamacare. Perhaps they won't this time.

ndspinelli said...

This will now which US Attorneys have political aspirations in evangelical Republican politics. It will also show the Deep State types. Cannabis prosecutions are classic Deep State.

This is really the Ying Yang to the hundreds of commutations by Obama of drug offenders. He lied when he said he only released non violent offenders. I researched about 40 on Pacer and found 5 or 6 violent offenders in that small sample.

Hagar said...

Jeff Sessions problem is that he is trying to act like a gentleman in time of war.

Danno said...

It is ridiculous that our Congress doesn't have the guts to enact legislation (probably more bipartisan than anything in recent memory) to reverse the federal laws on pot, thus leaving it to the states.

Tommy Duncan said...

"It's too easy for liberals to take shots at Sessions. Let's see some leadership in Congress, where the real work needs to be done, and let's see it from Democrats who — we keep hearing — are presidential material."

Democrats are looking wistfully to their last success in a Presidential race and want an attractive back bench blank slate they can project their hopes onto.

Michael K said...

Sessions is right and Gardner and Harris, as usual, are posing for the lefties.

Democrats have forgotten how to legislate. Obamacare was an example.

Hamlet's Fool said...

When Teddy Roosevelt was police commissioner in NYC he strictly enforced the laws regulating bars. I don't remember the specifics, but I seem to recall that the laws were previously inconsistently enforced, which allowed for graft.

Roosevelt received a lot of grief for enforcing the laws, his response (my paraphrase from memory from a biography I read years ago, not a quote) was "My job is to enforce the laws as written. If you don't like the laws to be enforced, change them."

Same applies here (to both the potential for graft and the need for the legislature, congress in this case, to step up and do their job).

Mark said...

'Its too easy for liberals to take a shot at Sessions' so we will take a cheap shot at Harris and Gardner.

Nevermind Rohrabacher, he is too well established as Republican to mention alongside them, despite having authored legislation in the subject that passed.

narciso said...

We know that France tried to use heroin out of indochina,,as a cash crop, I seem to recall if it was that marijuana was that central to Mexico's economy before 1937.

Rob said...

George Washington: lout or stable genius?

Michael K said...

"When Teddy Roosevelt was police commissioner in NYC he strictly enforced the laws regulating bars"

Have you ever read the novel, "The Alienist?" It's about Roosevelt as Police Commissioner. I enjoyed it.

Michael K said...

Washington had such a terrible temper, he had trouble controlling it and that was the source of much of his reserve.

MikeR said...

Jeepers. Why should it be so hard to convince the Senate that some states want legalized marijuana, maybe some don't - so there shouldn't be a federal law about it! Let the states sort it out. This sounds like the kind of thing that decent conservatives should support.

Phil 3:14 said...


Gardner was acting in his own political self interest. That's fine. But I do think he has an opportunity to do something much bigger: put together a bill with a democratic co-sponsor regarding this issue. It might kill two birds with one stone:
1. Get a truly bipartisan bill through the Senate
2. Strengthen his re-election possibilities in purple Colorado.

rhhardin said...

Coolidge had the saucer story

President Calvin Coolidge invited some people from his hometown to dinner at the White House. Since they did not know how to behave at such an occasion, they thought the best policy would be just to do what the President did. The time came for serving coffee. The President poured his coffee into a saucer. As soon as the home folk saw it, they did the same. The next step for the President was to pour some milk and add a little sugar to the coffee in the saucer. The home folks did the same. They thought for sure that the next step would be for the President to take the saucer with the coffee and begin sipping it. But the President didn’t do so. He leaned over, placed the saucer on the floor and called the cat.

Hagar said...

The left:
Ban tobacco as a public health hazard.
Legalize marijuana to show respect for "states' rights."

Enough said!

Hagar said...

Because we can; that's why!

cronus titan said...

Sessions is a fool and embodies the Peter Principle. He has a bizarre obsession with marijuana, which is okay for a Senator from Alabama but a stupid distraction for an AG. Senators Gardner and Harris are equally as ridiculous. Instead of whining and pulling bureaucratic stunts, introduce legislation and be done with it. As Professor Reynolds says, we have the worst political class in our history.

In keeping with Althouse's earlier post, we may be better off with Mr. Ed as AG, and his siblings as Senators. At least Mr. Ed is a #stablegenius.

Spaceman said...

It’s not all that much of a legalization in California or Colorado. Possession is limited to 1 ounce and you have to smoke on private property. What’s the harm of owning 1 pound versus an ounce? And why do you have to smoke in private? Analogous to the State saying you can only buy say 2 bottles of wine and have to drink at home, otherwise you are subject to arrest. If the State wanted to make weed truly “legal”, they should have dropped these silly restrictions.

mockturtle said...

Hagar observes: Jeff Sessions problem is that he is trying to act like a gentleman in time of war.


We need a wartime consiergle like Trey Gowdy.

Helenhightops said...

People in Appalachia used to drink their coffee from a saucer. I haven’t seen it done lately, however.

Mac McConnell said...

Spacman
I agree, but I don't smoke it and the majority doesn't. AG Sessions may just be cracking down to get changes in the law. It wouldn't be the first time, TR did it in NYC, Kansas AG Vern Miller did it to force the legislatures to liberalize laws through strict enforcement. Think about it, strict enforcement is how we arrived at small possession being a misdemeanor in most states.



bagoh20 said...

Those of us in legalized states see none of the horrors we were told were sure to appear. It has turned out to be simply a group of people doing legally what they used to do illegally with greater safety while adding revenue to government services and taking it away from criminal enterprizes. We see this and know that most of these people and the legalization are doing no harm to anyone, and we are a large and growing group who will see a crackdown as government intrusion of the kind the elites favor. This is a dumb thing for the Trump administration to attach to itself. It makes it seem old and out of touch, if not dangerous to a lot of us who love most else it is doing.

bagoh20 said...

As the administration expands this stupid regulation, what set of double the regulations will they remove as promised.

tcrosse said...

Imagine if there were a group of people from all over the country who had the power to change the Federal law. It isn't hard to do.

bagoh20 said...

Being someone who has indulged in nearly every vice at one time or another and who smoked a lot of pot back in the day, but who no longer enjoys it, I can say with authority that the only real problem with pot is that it wastes a lot to your time and money and thus sucks away opportunity. That is no small thing, but we all do that in a variety of ways that are legal, and pot should not be illegal just because some do not choose that flavor of idleness.

Bad Lieutenant said...

ADDED: Who the hell pours their tea into a saucer to cool it anymore? Speaking of uncool...


Speaking of uncool, is it just not in you, to express such an idea without sounding like a yob? I find it curious too, but am not filled with an urge to verbally defecate on a custom I don't understand or know about. These gentlemen also often wore powdered wigs. " Who the hell wears powdered wigs anymore?" In the modern parlance: Duh! They don't do it ANYMORE. But from those times we still have colorful expressions like "to flip one's wig," e.g. "Ol' Althouse really flipped her wig over that saucer reference!"

But never mind our hostess' limitations. This is an interesting notion, of a role for the saucer besides catching spills. How did this actually work? Did one sup or slurp from the saucer itself, or pour its contents back into the cup...

or what the hell, man?!?!? WHAT THE HELL DID THOSE OLD FUCKS DO WITH IT?!? THEY'RE NOT JUST LIKE ME I CANT STAND IT AAAAAAAAGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Rex said...

When you saucer your coffee, you pour some in the saucer so it cools quickly. Then you pour it back into the cup and drink out of the cup now that it's cool enough to drink. Perhaps you've never seen anyone saucer their coffee before? It was very common in many parts of the country back when coffee usually came out of a percolator at about 210 degrees F.

Original Mike said...

"AG Sessions may just be cracking down to get changes in the law."

I think you give Sessioons too much credit.

Saint Croix said...

It would be interesting if liberals discovered federalism and abandoned their idea of centralizing all power in Washington.

Karen of Texas said...

I want to know how you pour coffee from your cup into a saucer without spilling it right down the side of the cup.

As an aside, I have vague memories of my coal mining, training hopping, hobo grandfather of Irish descent, a member of the deep South when he wasn't train hopping, doing this at the breakfast table when we were visiting during the summer oh-so-many years ago (the 60s).

I don't remember him spilling a drop.

cubanbob said...

While I understand AG Sessions position on the MJ laws, I would prefer he would with great vigor enforce public corruption laws and welfare and federal contracting fraud laws.

bagoh20 said...

I just add a little cold water to the cup. I must be a genius. You can all use that idea until I get my patent. Shark Tank, get your checkbooks out.

Big Mike said...

As the administration expands this stupid regulation, what set of double the regulations will they remove as promised.

@bagoh20, the administration is emphatically not "expanding" any regulation; they are choosing to enforce existing laws. The previous administration chose not to enforce laws, but left them on the books. I think that this is the wrong way to operate. I think the federal laws should prohibit transporting marijuana across state lines for purposes of selling it, and let states establish their own laws regarding intrastate marijuana use. But that's not the position of Kamela Harris. She likes things the way Obama had them. The closer we can tie her to Obama the less viable she is as a candidate in 2020.

Yeah, Trump is stupid and insane.

Curious George said...

"The left:
Ban tobacco as a public health hazard."

The political left has NO desire to ban tobacco. They just want to tax the bejeezus out of it.

YoungHegelian said...

Let's see some leadership in Congress,

Oh, Professor A., you are such a pistol! Thanks for the afternoon (EST) laugh!

"Leadership in Congress". Oh, my stars & garters, what next? Rhhardin in a pussy hat?

David Begley said...

Today on MTP constitutional scholar Chuck Todd gave us public opinion polls on the legalization of pot. Not a word on existing federal law. Or the need to change it.

Just another attack on Sessions.

And, of course, AM Joy made it all about race.

David Begley said...

I stand corrected on one point.

But having the unhinged Joy Reid on air is inexcusable. The only conservative was a woman with wildly distracting earrings.

CHUCK TODD:But to defend the attorney general here, as the spokesperson said, they don't make law. They enforce law. If Congress wants to change the law, they should do it. Congress, they beat their chests, some of them, but I don't see anybody offering up a bill here yet.

MARK LEIBOVICH:Well, yeah. Offering up a bill would require a fight. I mean, it would require actually going on the record about this. I mean, look, as far as what Jeff Sessions is doing, I mean, this is all going to be executed by prosecutors. And what will be interesting is just to watch the prosecutors who want to sort of selectively find the marijuana user in Denver.

David Begley said...

Sessions needs to be discredited now as a racist and out of touch old man on drug law enforcement. Then when he indicts Point Shaver Strzok, Comey, Huma and Hillary, he is softened up as a tool of Trump. The refrain is already there. We don’t indict defeated political opponents.

n.n said...

I place the saucer atop the mug to promote steeping.

n.n said...

Puff, the hallucinating dragon, lived by the sea, and atop the mile-high city.

Also, there is cause to decarbonize your joints.

Char Char Binks said...

"He has a bizarre obsession with marijuana, which is okay for a Senator from Alabama but a stupid distraction for an AG."

I'd rather have an AG who enforces the law as written, and doesn't take orders from a former president, than a senator who writes bad laws.

tcrosse said...

As if any Federal Prosecutor in Nevada would bring a case against the very lucrative legal Pot industry, and expect to win it with a Nevada jury.

TDP said...

"ADDED: Who the hell pours their tea into a saucer to cool it anymore? Speaking of uncool... We're drinking coffee. We like it hot. It comes in a mug. You don't get a saucer. And if you did, and you poured your hot beverage into the saucer and drank from the saucer, people would regard you as a lout."

Geez, where did this come from?

My grandparents and my parents would always serve both coffee and tea (when we were using the "good" china) in cups with saucers. It was customary and good manners to do so. Occasionally, the saucer was used to cool the coffee or tea. But I never saw anyone drink from the saucer, rather the cooled coffee/tea was poured back into the cup to cool down the entire cup.

Quite an intelligent solution IMO. Plus the fact that many/most of our ancestor's behaviors were born of necessity and innovation given that they did not have the luxuries of our age of amazing materials science, engineering and manufacturing capabilities.

TDP said...

"He has a bizarre obsession with marijuana, which is okay for a Senator from Alabama but a stupid distraction for an AG."

My son's best friend has an obsession with marijuana, in that it has robbed him of motivation and the desire to do anything other than get high.

Sessions is doing his job in the way it's supposed to be done. You just don't like him.

Steven said...

Jeepers. Why should it be so hard to convince the Senate that some states want legalized marijuana, maybe some don't - so there shouldn't be a federal law about it! Let the states sort it out.

I don't know. Why should it be so hard to convince the Senate that some states want a statutory minimum wage, maybe some don't - so there shouldn't be a federal law about it! Let the states sort it out.

George Spix said...

This not a lot different than allowing state-A to set the rules for state -B without B having any voice at all in the matter, even if not terribly biased. e.g. 1 senator A vice the other 49, as long as there is one voice repesenting a few of us, given the system we've contracted to live by, they can lay on the railroad tracks and say not until I give consent or you compromise and meet one of my demands. Similar to the SLT deduction, that one lone holdout would represent the rest of the country. If there wasn't a hold-out, they could pass the law in the congress using the normal give and take. I'll trade you an airforce base for your buying of AMZN's new headquarters, assuming part of the public purse is used. Though perhaps I can loan you the money, but at least the hole you left in budget books because of the SLT can eventually be covered. Ditto policy give and take. If you can't get the majority of the representatives to trade for it.I'll Trade you the Hetch Hetchy for opening Gary Iron Mills, until at least the majority of U.S. repesentives agree, and the Senate never did matter for anything except for slowing things down. Pretty uncoth thing to observe. Yes it is. But I lost my Couth ages ago.

Bruce Gee said...

Apologies if this has already been mentioned here (I’ve read through half but not all of the comments), but wasn’t the original “cooling” effect of the Senate a direct result of the various State Legislatures appointing them? Once senators began being elected directly by the people, all bets of the Senate being a “cooling” body were off. Or am I remembering wrongly?