Koch network to Trump administration: “You are never going to win the war on drugs. Drugs won.”

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Trump administration’s tough talk on marijuana is creating an unusual alliance: pot smokers and the conservative Koch political network.

Mark Holden, one of the influential network’s top leaders, decried President Donald Trump’s administration for returning to the “harsh sentencing era of the war on drugs.”

“You are never going to win the war on drugs. Drugs won,” he told reporters as the network opened a three-day retreat Saturday at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ directive to re-evaluate marijuana policies is a particular problem. Even though it remains a federal crime to possess and use marijuana, he said, “it’s legal in a number of states, so we have to come to grips with that somehow.”

Brian Hooks, Charles Koch Mark Holden in Colorado Springs on June 24, 2017.
From left to right: Brian Hooks, Charles Koch and Mark Holden in Colorado Springs on June 24, 2017. Charles Koch and Brian Hooks address a reception at The Seminar on Saturday at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs. The three-day event brings together the Koch network to talk politics and policy.

Earlier this month, Sessions asked Congress to repeal federal protections for medical marijuana, citing a “historic drug epidemic” related to opiates. The 2014 policy prohibits the Justice Department from using federal dollars to block states from legalizing  the “use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

When it comes to medical marijuana, Holden argued it “should be off-limits” to a federal law enforcement crackdown.

Holden, the general counsel for Koch Industries who leads a network-backed effort to address overcriminalization and criminal justice reform, was cautious about reading too much into his stance.

“I’m not here to say our position is legalize drugs or anything else,” he said, adding: “But I don’t think that we should criminalize those types of things and we should let the states decide.”

The approach fits with the conservative philosophies advanced by Charles and David Koch as part of their policy and political work. Holden suggested Sessions’ position represents a “failed big government top-down approach.”

“It’s based on fear and emotion in my opinion,” he added.

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