by Daveda Gruber:
Battlegrounds for the GOP in this year’s midterm elections are being jeopardized and creating criticism from congressional Republicans in states that allow recreational and medical use of pot.
The Justice Department’s decision to pursue marijuana prosecutions across the country is bothering some.
There are now 29 states that have adopted medical marijuana laws.
Eight other states have legalized pot for recreational purposes.
California, Colorado and Nevada, are states with key House and Senate races will help decide who controls Congress next year.
Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who is facing reelection said, “I think members of Congress who don’t speak up and act will certainly be held accountable by voters.”
There are many House members retiring and it is a point of election that is could change the parameters of who holds what in Congress.
In 2016 Florida voters supported a ballot initiative by nearly 75 percent to broadly expand the legal use of medical marijuana. Those same voters in that swing state were crucial in helping elect President Trump.
They picked a Republican presidential nominee for the first time since 2004.
Curbelo and others worry about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision last week.
Rolling back an Obama-era policy that allowed legal marijuana to thrive without federal intervention will jeopardize such votes in 2018.
The DOJ decision doesn’t change existing policy but it rolls back a 2013 Obama-era DOJ memo stating the department would not obstruct states that allow marijuana as long as certain conditions are met.
Sessions said that he was rescinding the memo. The decision leaves it up to U.S. attorneys to what extent to enforce federal law on marijuana.
Political media consultant Rory McShane said, “A Republican administration coming out against pot is going to be difficult for Republican candidates. Republicans throughout Western states generally have a libertarian streak. So it might be especially hard for Republicans to win there, because this is not just about Southern California stoner culture.”
Republican Senator.Cory Gardner of Colorado was among the first Washington Republicans to publicly oppose Sessions’ decision. His home state voters approved the sale of recreational marijuana in 2012.
Gardner was on the Senate floor within a few hours of the announcement saying, “I understand Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ opposition to marijuana, of legalization. I opposed the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. But this about a decision by the state of Colorado. And we were told state’s rights would be protected … Candidate Trump said it was up to the states.”
Gardner is head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee charged with getting Republicans elected and reelected to the Senate.
He has threatened to try to put a Senate hold on all Justice Department nominations. He apparently met with Sessions on Wednesday.
Sessions’ decision, which gives a free rein to federal prosecutors to consider bringing up marijuana cases, while stopping short of ordering them to do so.
A DOJ source gave a comment saying, “Congress can change the law; the Department of Justice cannot.”
Democrats need to win a net 24 House seats in November to take control of the chamber.
They would need to gain 2 Senate seats to end the GOP’s extremely slim 51-49 majority. There are 34 of the 100 seats in up for grabs this year.
The Nevada seat held by GOP Sen. Dean Heller is one of the most vulnerable GOP Senate incumbents.
Most of the House Republicans are seeking reelection in conservative-leaning districts. Democrats must defend 26 Senate seats. This includes 2 independents.
I believe that winning the majority will be a challenge for both sides.
The party that controls the White House typically loses House and Senate seats in the first midterms after the presidential election. Not good news.
Democrats do appear to have an advantage. They are attempting to use Republicans’ tax code against them.
The Trump White House and its allies say that the sweeping tax cuts connected to the bill will prove popular.
Others argue that any potential crackdown on state-legalized marijuana will scare off potential investors. They say it will jeopardize tax revenue from the growing industry that could help under-funded state pension programs or pay teacher and police salaries.
Dr. Stuart Titus, chief executive of California-based Medical Marijuana Inc., said, “Politicians know marijuana means votes. And any possible change raises concern.”
Reelection is especially hard for GOP House incumbents in California’s Orange County, where voters picked a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since the mid-1930s in 2016.
Is this why incumbents are dropping out like flies?
GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s congressional district runs through the Orange County coast.
He said, “Sessions’ decision undercuts the additional votes that Republicans receive and expect to receive from people whose concern for legalized cannabis is high on their priority list.”
Rohrabacher is the co-founder of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. He argued that a crackdown on the legal marijuana trade goes beyond lost tax revenue.
He also said, “People can earn a good living. The billions in salaries would be cut off and go to drug cartels in Mexico.”
GOP House incumbent Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would not seek a 14th term. This was amid a similarly tough reelection effort.
California Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also announced he would retire on Wednesday at the end of his current term.
I guess marijuana means keeping Congress in Republican hands or not. Who ever thought it would become such a big deal?