When long time, vocal prohibitionist Jeff Sessions became Attorney General, the marijuana community across the country collectively inhaled in terse anticipation. The man, who once claimed that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that the plant that has helped so many patients across the country was just slightly worse than heroin did not make an ideal candidate to represent the wishes of the 94 percent of Americans who believe that medical marijuana should be legal. It would appear that the public had a legitimate reason to be concerned, as Sessions this week, has written a letter to Congress, asking to remove all protections from going after those in the medical marijuana industry.
A provision known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prevents the Justice Department from using federal funding to stop states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” This protection allows states to create their own laws with regards to marijuana and ensures that the federal government respects the wishes of the individual state and its residents. Now Sessions is asking to overturn this amendment so that he can begin prosecuting medical marijuana providers.
A Baseless Means of Fighting the Opioid Crisis
The reasoning expressed by Sessions is that there is a “historic drug epidemic” and this is why he should be able to crackdown on the medical marijuana industry to remedy the situation. This logic however contradicts what we know about marijuana. The epidemic referred to by Sessions is an opioid problem, both from heroin and prescription medication, that is claiming tens of thousands of lives a year. We now know for a fact that states that have legalized medical marijuana in some form have approximately 23 percent less opioid related deaths and hospitalizations than other states.
Victims Ranging from Veterans to Children
Marijuana has been found to be a remedy for opioid addiction and a safer, healthier, non-addictive and more effective option than prescription opioids. This is why data suggests that the most effective way of reducing the current opioid epidemic is through marijuana. Sessions has bypassed these facts and information to quote ideas from the “reefer madness” era; ideas that are well known to be completely inaccurate and deeply outdated. In fact, by targeting the medical marijuana industry, not only would he be hurting people with debilitating and terminal conditions, children with epilepsy and the country’s veterans, but he could also make the opioid epidemic drastically worse. “Mr. Sessions stands athwart an overwhelming majority of Americans and even, sadly, against veterans and other suffering Americans who we now know conclusively are helped dramatically by medical marijuana,” said a spokeswoman for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
This move by Sessions disregards evidence as well as the clear wishes of the majority of Americans and the 3/4 of Americans who believe that the federal government should not interfere with state marijuana law. Multiple bills currently exist that seek to legalize marijuana on a federal level. These bills are sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. Sessions position is not widely supported by lawmakers or citizens but only time will tell how Congress will respond.