If you belong to the 66 percent of Americans who know that marijuana is less dangerous than heroin, then you're more qualified for handling the country's cannabis laws than Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. AG Jeff Sessions' surrogate appeared before Congress yesterday to bolster cannabis prohibition and hint at launching a crackdown on the 30 states that have legalized medical marijuana. A move that would cost thousands of lives, harm millions of Americans and waste billions of taxpayer dollars.
Rosenstein kicked off his prohibition tirade by addressing on the legal status of marijuana in America.
"I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science," Rosenstein said. "And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I." That schedule also includes heroin and other drugs that the federal government considers to be dangerous, addictive and devoid of medical value.
But nobody has ever died of a marijuana overdose. In fact, cannabis could actually save lives by weaning people off heroin and other opiates that are contributing to the skyrocketing mortality rate for drug overdoses in America. Between 59,000 and 65,000 Americans died in 2016 alone due to overdose, according to the New York Times. But instead of treating cannabis as a potential solution to this crisis, the Trump administration is asking Congress to unleash the DEA on states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Doing so would likely cause a spike in the overdose death toll by forcing more patients to treat their conditions with opioids instead of cannabis. And those prescription pills often lead to addiction, according to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “When we talk about heroin addiction, we usually...are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin,” Lynch said last September.
Renewing the War on Drugs would also ruin lives by piling more convicts into America's costly, overcrowded prisons. A move that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) says will negatively impact millions of Americans turn a public health crisis into a national tragedy.
"We should be treating our nation's drug epidemic for what it is - a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy," Paul wrote last month. "Our prison population...has increased by over 700% since the 1980s, and 90% of them are nonviolent offenders. The costs of our prison system now approach nearly $100 billion a year. It costs too much, in both the impact on people's lives and on our tax dollars."
But Rosenstein is apparently willing to go through all that if it makes explaining the country's cannabis laws to his kids. “We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states. It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids," he said yesterday.
Maybe instead of worrying about how to explain medical marijuana to his kids, Rosenstein should think about how he plans to explain to other kids why the government let their loved ones die of opioid addiction or jailed them for a plant that never killed anyone.