Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants permission to crack down on medical marijuana across the United States. Last month, Trump's top law enforcer wrote a letter to Congress asking them to remove the only thing stopping him from prosecuting state-legalized medical marijuana industries and patients.
The letter - which was first reported on by Tom Angell of MassRoots - specifically asks Congress not to renew the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment - a federal budget rider that prevents the Department of Justice and the DEA from using any money to enforce cannabis prohibition in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Right now, that rider is the only thing keeping the attorney general from cracking down on everyone involved in the industry - from state-legalized growers, to dispensary workers to patients. But Sessions wants that leash taken off the DEA.
"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," Sessions wrote. "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."
There are two glaring problems with Attorney General Sessions' arguments. First off, he is perversely trying to link America's opioid epidemic to cannabis use, even though studies have consistently found that cannabis does not lead people to abuse harder drugs like heroin. In fact, recent scientific studies suggest that medical marijuana could actually help wean addicts off of opioids. So blaming the epidemic on marijuana is like blaming starvation on food.
Cracking down on medical marijuana would force more patients across the country to use the prescription pills that do lead to opioid addiction. So instead of fixing this public health crisis, Sessions' plan would likely fan the flames of an epidemic that claimed the lives of over 55,000 Americans last year.
The second problem is that the connection that Sessions is trying to make between marijuana legalization and violent crime is also contrary to fact. A 2014 study published by PLOS One found that marijuana legalization "may be correlated with a reduction in homicide and assault rates" in legal states. More recently, a study published in January 2016 in the Journal of Drug Issues found that "There is no evidence of negative spillover effects from medical marijuana laws (MMLs) on violent or property crime. Instead, we find significant drops in rates of violent crime associated with state MMLs."
And initial results suggest that crime rates are declining in Denver thanks to legalization.
So if Sessions is serious about needing to put the DOJ in a "position to use all laws available to combat" international drug trafficking, why doesn't he consider cannabis legalization? Allowing states to determine their own marijuana laws is healthier for the American people as well as the economy since the disastrous War on Drugs, which has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, crammed more convicts into America's overcrowded prisons and yet hasn't curbed illicit drug use.
Congress has not issued a response to Sessions' letter, so we don't know if they will give in to his request. But at least some members are speaking out against the attorney general.
"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," a spokesman for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) told The Washington Post. Rep. Rohrabacher, incidentally, is the same Rohrabacher whose name appears on the budget rider protecting medical marijuana. He's also the first sitting congressperson to step out of the cannabis closet, so Sessions will face fierce opposition from him on the issue.
And the American people will also be a major obstacle in the way of Sessions' dream of renewing the War on Drugs. Nearly 80 percent of North Americans support legalizing marijuana in some form, according to Civilized's 2017 Cannabis Culture Poll,. That means only one in five Americans oppose reforming the country's cannabis laws.
So when it comes to America's marijuana policy, Jeff Sessions is basically a talking fossil from the prohibition era.