The marijuana industry across the country has faced some threats this year with the implementation of long time prohibitionist Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions has taken a much different stance on the plant than his predecessors in the Obama administration who allowed states to create their own marijuana laws and regulations. Sessions, on the other hand, has suggested a crackdown on the medical marijuana industry, sending out a letter to Congress urging them to allow him to use federal funds in this endeavor. With more scrutiny being placed on the industry in general, California has forged their own crackdown on the black market in the hopes of avoiding federal intervention in this future.
California’s Marijuana Excess
California has had an active marijuana industry since the legalization of medical marijuana in 1996. Now it appears that farmers are growing more than what the state can consume. According to the Los Angeles Times, Californian marijuana cultivators produced 13.5 million pounds of the plant last year yet only consumed 2.5 million pounds. The extra cannabis appears to be traveling to other states, in particular along Interstate 40, which connects west to east. Over a 2 day period in August, $2.5 million in marijuana was confiscated along this highway.
California Highway Patrol Involvement
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) appears to be the main law enforcement involved in stopping the export of the plant. “If we want to avoid intervention from the federal government, we need to do everything we can to crack down on illegal activity and prevent cannabis from being exported out of state,” Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) said. Lackey is a former CHP sergeant who has an understanding of the role the CHP can play in preventing the export of the plant. He announced a bill last month, suggesting that the CHP be named the leading state law enforcement agency investigating black market marijuana. There is currently no other agency dedicated to this role.
FDA Threats Against Marijuana Products
According to Bloomberg, the FDA also appears to be in the process of contemplating a crackdown on marijuana companies who are producing products that claim that marijuana contains health benefits. “I see people who are developing products who are making claims that marijuana has antitumor effects in the setting of cancer,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “It’s a much broader question about where our responsibility is to step into this.”
A Lack of Research
The FDA are concerned that there is no official government approved evidence that marijuana has medical benefits. Up until last August there was no official means for scientists to research the plant. The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug places it in the highest risk category alongside heroin and LSD. The criteria for this category is that a substance is highly addictive, has no medicinal benefits and is not safe to be tested on humans. This made the plant impossible to study in any official capacity for medical reasons. Last August, the DEA lifted the ban on studies, so long as researchers submitted the correct paperwork for the application and got approval. The Department of Justice has not approved any of the applications. They are at a standstill on the matter.