U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is no fan of marijuana. But would he really effect policy that would upend a multi-billion dollar industry that weakens cartels, provides relief for the ailing and dying and helps hundreds of thousands of people avoid unnecessary jail time and criminal penalties?
If one of his recent speeches is any indication, the answer is likely: Absolutely.
The speech took place in Virginia at a summit on violent crime. In part of his message, he called marijuana use a “life-wrecking dependency” that could be considered only slightly less terrible than heroin.
Sessions in that speech advocated for a federal government response to drugs that would effectively be a return to 1980s “Just Say No,” tough on drug crimes stance. There are so many problems with this approach, it’s hard to know where to start.
First, we consider the fact that it doesn’t work. Imposing severe penalties for possession, cultivation and sales of marijuana did not make people any less likely to use it.
Secondly, the greater impact was that people and communities were devastated by these policies. Hundreds of thousands were jailed on non-violent drug charges that upended their lives. Communities lost the benefits of otherwise productive citizens – or those who could have been productive citizens. And prison populations became bloated and unable to handle the overflow.
That Sessions would liken marijuana to heroin at a time when heroin and opioids have sparked an actual crisis of epidemic proportions seems nonsensical and irresponsible. The national opioid addiction and overdose crisis is killing 140 people every day. Meanwhile, Sessions is making statements like “marijuana will destroy your life.” These words have zero basis in fact. There is no proof whatsoever that someone who uses marijuana is next going to begin dabbling in heroin.
But that’s not even what Sessions is saying. He is saying marijuana – in and of itself – is just as bad as heroin.
Meanwhile, the government’s own research has proven that states with medical marijuana programs have seen opioid overdose death reductions of between 15 to 30 percent.
Despite so much evidence to the contrary of his statements, Sessions merely framed his views as “unfashionable.” He went on to say he was “astonished” that some might assert that heroin addiction could be curtailed with legalized marijuana.
Certainly, we don’t want to harm Session’s delicate sensibilities here, but the reality is the scientific evidence supports the notion that access to legal marijuana makes people less likely to use powerful painkillers in the first place, and it has been used as a means to wean people off an addiction.
Sessions said “I think” the benefits of cannabis had been overly hyped, but he failed to provide any concrete evidence of his assumption.
He did, however, concede that “much” of the Cole memo, which the Obama administration put forth to deprioritize federal marijuana enforcment in states that have made the drug legal, was likely valid. He doubted that from a practical standpoint federal law enforcement agents would be able to enforce laws generally handled by the state.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
Jeff Sessions Goes Full ‘Reefer Madness’ on Pot, March 15, 2017, By Tom Dickinson, The Rolling Stone
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Funeral Director: I Was Fired for Using Medical Marijuana, March 19, 2017, California Marijuana Lawyer Blog