Stone Steps Up As Potential Star Witness for Alexis Bortell’s Lawsuit Against Jeff Sessions
From the first days of Donald Trump’s campaign for president, Roger Stone was a consistent, if lone, voice among Trump’s top advisors urging the candidate to embrace the prerogative of the more than two dozen states that, in some form or another, adopted medical cannabis laws, and if elected to continue the existing DOJ policy, defined in the so-called Cole Memo, of federal forbearance from enforcing federal cannabis prohibition where state-legal programs were in place.
When Trump weighed in on the issue on the campaign trail, it was clear Stone’s advocacy paid off. Trump endorsed state medical marijuana programs, saying on August 8, 2016:
“What I do support is medical marijuana in some form and it’s a very complex subject as you know, but in a certain form and the way we have it and the way we’ve been discussing it I support medical marijuana.”
Unfortunately, after his election Trump named as his Attorney General the most anti-cannabis politician in Washington, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, an early Trump supporter. Sessions immediately signaled that there would be no reprieve for any state medical cannabis programs from possible federal drug law enforcement actions. On January 4, 2018 Sessions sent out guidance rescinding the Cole Memo.
Sessions made it clear that the president’s unequivocal campaign promise meant nothing to him and he intended to enforce federal cannabis prohibition laws.
Stone has regularly savaged Sessions over the issue since the first days of the Trump administration, regularly calling for Sessions’s resignation or firing. Stone repeatedly urged Trump, both publicly and in private consultation, to honor his campaign pledge to support state-legal medical cannabis.
While no policy has been issued by the administration to accomplish this, notwithstanding the Sessions rescission of the Cole Memo, there have also not been any reported federal enforcement actions against state-legal cannabis activities. A number of U.S. Attorneys announced there would be no change in enforcement priorities from those followed under the Cole Memo.
Meanwhile, those who rely on cannabis for relief from medical maladies under state-legal programs have continued to advocate for federal reform and have coalesced a substantial congressional contingent that introduced proposals to deal with the conflict from the federal side, by legislating a federal stand-down.
Through several rounds of emergency budget appropriations over the last six months, medical cannabis supporters in Congress successfully renewed an amendment first enacted in May 2014 that denies funds for any DOJ enforcement activities against state medical cannabis program participants.
But some advocates were not content to wait for Congress to catch up with what polls now show to be around 90% public support for medical cannabis and for an end to prohibition laws contrary to medical cannabis programs under state laws.
In July 2017, a group of medical cannabis users, including Alexis Bortell, an 11-year old whose family moved to Colorado to ensure she had access to cannabis that relieved her epileptic seizures, Jagger Cotte, a pediatric medical cannabis user, Marvin Washington, a former New York Jet, and Army combat veteran and PTSD-sufferer Jose Belen, filed a lawsuit in New York federal District Court against the U.S. Government, seeking to enjoin the feds from enforcing the law that defines cannabis as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, the most extreme and restrictive classification in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
The plaintiffs allege that the classification of cannabis under Schedule I is factually contrary to the reality of the plant’s applications and uses that it is not only absurd, but unconstitutional. In years past, such suits had a snowball’s chance in Hades of making it past a motion to dismiss. But times have changed and it appears possible that a federal court may finally reflect this.
Just this past week the court heard oral arguments on the government’s motion to dismiss the suit. Comments from the bench by Judge Alvin Hellerstein gave plaintiffs and their attorneys reason for hope that finally the asinine federal drug law treatment of cannabis will be recognized for the travesty it has always been. The plaintiffs and their legal team are optimistic that the untenable status quo will be ameliorated by a responsible federal official with the power to grant relief, where Congress has been negligent, or craven, leaving the irrational law untouched for nearly half a century.
The 89-page complaint lays out the entire human history of cannabis use, from its earliest appearance in historical records 1000’s of years ago through the tenure of AG Jeff Sessions. A key part of the plaintiffs’ allegations involves the irrational or ulterior motives behind the federal law’s treatment of cannabis that remains law today, promulgated in 1970 under the administration of President Richard Nixon.
And what prominent political figure today was not only alive during the Nixon administration but joined its staff as a young go-getter working with key Nixon officials throughout the period in which these drug laws were put in place? If you answered Pat Buchanan, you would be right, but the correct answer for our purposes is none other than Roger J. Stone, Jr.
Over a month before the filing of Alexis’s lawsuit, Stone executed a lengthy, detailed and thorough affidavit in which he stated, under oath, that the insane, excessive, draconian treatment of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act had nothing to do with any scientific or rational basis, but was a purely-political calculation to use marijuana prohibition as a cudgel against two disfavored groups: black Americans and anti-war activists.
Stone held nothing back, exposing in detail the nefarious machinations of Nixon administration officials in making cannabis subject to harsh criminal penalties under the same category as heroin and LSD.
Anyone who knows anything about Stone knows he has reverence and affection for Richard Nixon, having become a close friend and trusted confidant of the former president from the early 1980’s through Nixon’s death in 1994. Much of Stone’s identity as a political figure is tied to President Nixon, and one of Stone’s best-selling books is an insider’s view of Nixon’s career. Many previously-unknown personal anecdotes about Nixon’s life as a globally-recognized political leader emerge.
For Stone to step up and lay out the ugly truth about what Stone calls Nixon’s single greatest and most damaging mistake – the drug war – is itself a demonstration of character, integrity and courage by Stone, who would reason not to give his critics any ammunition to tear into him for any reason, particularly his affection for the former president.
It could not have been easy for Stone to lay out a sordid piece of the Nixon legacy in such stark terms, choosing what is right over personal commitment since Nixon’s death to preserve the best possible memories of a president for whom Stone not only worked and socialized and came to know on very human level, but whom Stone deeply believes has been horribly maligned and mischaracterized by partisans with shallow motives and active animus.
Nixon would admire Stone’s principled stand and willingness to proactively lay aside personal sentiments as the country’s foremost historian and advocate of the Nixon legacy, in order to aid a righteous cause that seeks to smash irrational, mean spirited, abusive laws and replace them with humanity and compassion, honoring the dignity of every individual to make their own health and medical choices, without the long arm of authoritarian government making them criminals.
If it comes to trial, Stone may be called to testify to the contents of his affidavit. If he does, Stone’s persuasive skills and meticulous treatment of historical events may aid the case for medical cannabis patients and help ensure that they, and every medical cannabis user across our country, have justice and constitutional due that they have been denied by political bullies.