By Carey Wedler
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been vocal about his archaic opposition to cannabis. Before and after becoming the nation’s top cop, he expressed his ill-advised distaste for the plant, suggesting “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and bemoaning the possibility that cannabis shops could soon populate grocery stores around the country.
Still, earlier this year, Politicoreported that he privately told members of Congress he would not be going after states with legal cannabis. This was surprising in light of his past rhetoric, though ultimately predictable considering Congress has been mounting protections for these users for years, and even more bills have been introduced in the legislature since President Trump — and consequently, Sessions — took office.
More recently, however, the Department of Justice has dug in its heels in regards to drug enforcement. In May, it announced it was seeking to extend mandatory minimums on drug ‘crimes,’ a policy that has proven disastrous in terms of bloating the prison population and straining resources, not to mention destroying non-violent people’s lives.
Now, reports are emerging indicating that Sessions does intend to go after medical marijuana, after all. In a letter written by Sessions addressed to Congress, first obtained by cannabis-oriented outlet MassRoots and verified independently by the Washington Post, Sessions urged Congress not to renew the 2014 Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents the DOJ from spending federal funds to interfere with state laws on the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical cannabis.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” he wrote in May to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
The Post noted that “In an email, John Hudak of the Brookings Institution characterized the letter’s arguments as a ‘scare tactic’ that ‘could appeal to rank-and-file members or to committee chairs in Congress in ways that could threaten the future of this Amendment.’”
Sessions is incorrectly using the current opiate crisis to lump medical marijuana into his drug warrior stance. Studies show violent crime does not increase in areas where cannabis is legal; in fact, medical marijuana may actually be correlated with decreases in homicide and assault. Further, rates of opiate abuse and overdose have been found to decrease when individuals have access to the plant.
Nevertheless, as MassRootsexplained, Sessions, along with the Trump administration, is seeking to undermine the three-year-old Rohrabacher-Farr amendment:
“[W]hen President Trump signed a Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill into law last month, he issued a signing statement that essentially reserved the right to ignore the medical marijuana protections.
“I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
This stance came in marked contrast to Trump’s campaign claims that he supported letting states decide their policies on medical marijuana, but ultimately unsurprising in light of his decision to appoint Sessions to head the DOJ.
“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,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who sponsored the amendment and has introduced similar legislation over the years, said in a statement.
As the Brooking Institution’s Hudak said, the letter should “make everyone openly question whether candidate Trump’s rhetoric and the White House’s words on his support for medical marijuana was actually a lie to the American public on an issue the garners broad, bipartisan support.”
Roughly 88 percent of the American public now supports legalizing medical cannabis, and an increasing portion of the population supports legalizing the plant across the board.