The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to protect medical marijuana. The committee signed a budget bill on Thursday that would prevent the Department of Justice from spending federal funding on going after the medical marijuana industry across the country. The 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science bill prevents the federal government from interfering with states that have elected to legalize the plant. This comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent an email to Congress in May requesting permission to spend federal funds on targeting medical marijuana across the country.
Better Use of Resources
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) proposed the amendment. He expressed concerns about the Department of Justice using funds to go after patients who are abiding by state law. He argued that the department should be spending it’s time and national resources going after genuine threats. “We have more important things for the Department of Justice to do than tracking down doctors or epileptics using medical marijuana legally in their state,” said Leahy. “The number of states that are legalizing at least the medical use of cannabis is overwhelming now. Public opinion has always spoken on this issue,” he continued.
Sessions, a long time prohibitionist, has expressed a desire to crack down on the industry since being appointed as Attorney General. In the past he has called cannabis only “slightly worse than heroin” and stated that “good people” don’t use the plant. His views on cannabis reflect those from the days of “reefer madness” and the Reagan’s “just say no” hardline policies that ultimately failed and did not reduce crime, drug use or the prison populations. His request to go after the medical marijuana industry was based on the current drug epidemic wherein opioid abuse and deaths related to its use are at an all-time high.
Battling the Opioid Epidemic
In actuality, statistics indicate that in states where cannabis is legalized in some form, opioid related hospital visits are down 23 percent. The plant has actually proven itself to be a remedy for the current opioid epidemic. Ironically cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug which is the highest risk category alongside heroin and LSD. This category is reserved for substances that have no medicinal purpose and cannot be safely tested. In effect, it has actually proven itself to be a solution for the current heroin and prescription opioid epidemic.
For the time being, medical marijuana remains protected from federal interference in the 29 states where it has been legalized. States will have the final say regarding what is legal. Several bipartisan bills are currently in play that seek to reschedule or deschedule the plant and end prohibition. According to the latest polls, the majority of Americans are in favor of legalizing both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana for adult use. Public opinion regarding the plant is strong and lawmakers are reflecting the demands of the constituents in seeking to ultimately change the law, end the black market and create a safe and legal way for the public to have access to the plant and its medicinal uses.