Long time prohibitionist Jeff Sessions was made Attorney General for the Trump administration and, since then, the marijuana industry and marijuana policy reform advocates have feared the potential ramifications of having him in office. Already throughout the year, Sessions has implied that he intends to crackdown on marijuana growers, sellers and users although no action has been made toward this direction until recently. But in May, he sent a letter to Congress requesting that he be able to use federal funding for going after those in the marijuana industry, including medical marijuana.
Linking Marijuana to Violence
Now as the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, prepares to release a report, marijuana advocates are concerned that the report will link marijuana with violent crime, recommending that the law get tougher on anyone growing, selling or using it in any capacity. In the memo Sessions sent to Congress, he says, “Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities.” Many fear that this is indicative of his intention to get stricter on the cannabis industry and those who participate in it. Sessions has included medical marijuana as an area he intends to focus on too.
Conflicting with Public Opinion
Currently, 29 states have medical marijuana and 8 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for recreational use. All recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans are in favor of legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana. 2/3 of the country also believe that this is an issue that should be dealt with on a state by state basis without federal interference. During his election campaign, Trump indicated several times that he would let states create their own marijuana laws. He told the Washington Post in an interview “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state… Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Archaic, Baseless Beliefs
However, Sessions has been vocal about his disdain for marijuana, saying that “good people” don’t use it and calling it only “slightly worse than heroin.” His opinions regarding the plant, however, don’t match up with the known facts. He claims that the crackdown on marijuana is in response to a drug epidemic. There is an opioid epidemic right now with thousands dying every year from opioid related overdoses. The opioids include both heroin and prescription drugs. No one has ever died from using marijuana and states that have legalized marijuana have approximately 23% less opioid related hospital visits. As it turns out, the best cure for the current opioid epidemic is cannabis.
The “reefer madness” and “just say no” attitude to cannabis that failed in the past is being touted by Sessions. Several bipartisan bills exist that seek to either legalize cannabis in some capacity or protect state rights. Until one of these passes, the future is uncertain.