New U.S. Attorney General: Marijuana Policy Shift Opined

Despite mountains of scientific evidence to the contrary, marijuana continues to be classified by the federal government as a Schedule I narcotic, labeling it as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use or treatment.
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We know, for example, that alcohol is far more dangerous than marijuana on a host of different levels – from the biological effects to the traffic safety impact. And yet, law enforcement officials and prosecutors continue to turn a blind eye to the facts.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is no hero of the marijuana legalization movement, as it was at his direction countless dispensary raids and criminal prosecutions of marijuana growers and collective operators took place. However, he did in the end direct federal prosecutors to ease their stance in so far as state-sanctioned operations were concerned.

Now, his predecessor may well take us several steps back. Loretta Lynch is President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general. During her recent confirmation hearing, Lynch flat-out disagreed with Obama on the issue of marijuana. She stated ingesting marijuana was more dangerous than drinking, and that Obama’s previous statements were based more on personal experience and personal opinion. She went on to say she does not support the legalization of cannabis.

Perhaps our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers should not be all that surprised, given Lynch’s history. She has spent a good portion of her career serving as a federal prosecutor at the height of the so-called “War on Drugs” – a failed war, we might add. Her views are in line with the bulk of law enforcement officers who served during that time. That includes the current Drug Enforcement Administration’s top official.

Problematically for Lynch and others who maintain those views is science does not support these views. For example, five years ago, one British study showed alcohol was the No. 1 most harmful substance both to users and society. That was out of 20 different drugs studied. Marijuana, meanwhile, ranked No. 8, behind tobacco, cocaine and heroin.

The reason we should care about Lynch’s viewpoint is that if she is confirmed, she will oversee the very agency that in 2013 vowed not to interfere with the legalization of the drug in Washington and Colorado (assuming those states met certain regulatory standards). Since that time, Alaska and Oregon have approved recreational use of the drug, and the District of Columbia has legalized small-increment possession.

During the confirmation hearing, Lynch did not assert any intentions to reverse the current policy allowing state-level legalization. However, she did say she would remain committed to enforcing current federal policy that grants authorities the power to file cases against anyone who distributes marijuana to children or transports the drug across state lines to locations where it is not legal.

Although this is not especially alarming in itself, it’s a stark reminder that without a major change by the U.S. Supreme Court or the federal legislature, the current lax policy on marijuana is easily reversible.

While the states continue to operate with a cloak of uncertainty amid a patchwork of varying laws, it would seem to make far more sense to simply remove marijuana from its current Schedule I classification, as it clearly does not belong there. Plus, enforcement should not be carried out simply on the whims of those in office.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Will the Next Attorney General Crack Down on Marijuana? Jan. 29, 2015, By Vikas Bajaj, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
Obama Vows to Let States Pave Road to Legalization, Feb. 3, 2015, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog