Much to the dismay of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved a budget amendment in an appropriations bill covering fiscal 2017.
The amendment would protect states with responsible medical marijuana laws from Department of Justice interference and would help prevent a federal crackdown on state-legal cannabis businesses—a position the majority of Americans support.
However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issued a letter that stated "Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a crime.” The DOJ is committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act under the guise of addressing “the most significant threats to public health and safety.”
Yet, cannabis is not dangerous and it is not a public health or safety threat.
Marijuana has been scientifically proven to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco (both legal substances under federal law passed by Congress).
When cannabis businesses come into neighborhoods, crime goes down, not up.
In states with with medical marijuana laws, opioid use has even been shown to decrease. This makes it nearly impossible to see any threat at except the lack of federal regulations.
In May, Sessions, an ardent opponent to marijuana legalization, issued a memorandum ordering federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenders, which overturned the bipartisan-supported policy of issuing mandatory minimums sentences for non-violent offenders implemented under the Obama Administration. The AG was blasted by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Then, in July, Sessions announced the DOJ was considering rolling back a series of Obama-era curbs on civil-asset forfeiture—a highly disputed practice that would allow law enforcement to permanently seize property, and in many states, cash from individuals and businesses, who may never actually be charged with a crime.
This controversial practice is riddled with and is ripe for corruption, considering law enforcement only needs a “suspicion of a crime” to seize assets and, in many states, cash under the program.
Sessions is forcing his outdated, inaccurate views of cannabis on the American people, despite two-thirds of our country passing responsible medical marijuana laws, 61 percent supporting full legalization for adult use, 81 percent backing medical marijuana use, and 71 percent of Americans opposing a federal crackdown on cannabis.
Sessions’s positions are out of sync with President Trump’s goal of creating more well paying jobs and they are out of touch with Americans, veterans, patients, business owners, and the states, who depend on the billions in tax dollars collected from the cannabis industry for important state, county and municipal programs.
While it is clear the majority of Americans have become much more educated about marijuana, Sessions seems to be misleading the country about what marijuana is, its uses and how we even got here in the first place. (According to Richard Nixon’s top aides, Nixon's war on drugs was racially motivated).
This leaves us questioning what Sessions’ war on marijuana is really about?
As Americans, we must ask ourselves tough questions: is this racially motivated?
Is it about our big-money prisons systems?
Is it pressure from political donors? Other special interest groups?
Maybe, it is Harry Anslinger, the father of drug criminalization himself, channeling himself through our Attorney General?
Whatever the explanation, a federal crackdown on the cannabis industry would mean medical marijuana patients and veterans will be denied access to treatments that improve their quality of life. Tens of thousands of Americans would lose their incomes and jobs.
Billions less would be collected from cannabis businesses for state and municipal programs.
More otherwise law-abiding citizens would be locked up in prisons. More families will be torn apart. Innovation would be stunted, and pioneering entrepreneurs would be treated as criminals.
Congress has the power to stop Sessions’ Reefer Madness mentality while helping our country combat its opioid crisis, giving our nation's sickest patients access to alternative medical treatments, generating billions in tax dollars for programs, creating jobs and spawning innovation—all of which benefits Americans, not harms them.
Congress should step up finally pass comprehensive and inclusive legalization reforms. If they do, you can rest assured the American people will applaud them for passing common sense regulations that will benefit our nation, patients, veterans, small businesses and pioneering job creators.