Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently submitted a letter asking certain members of Congress to remove federal protections that prevent the Department of Justice from cracking down on medical marijuana patients, cultivators and dispensaries that are in line with state laws.
Under the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which passed in 2014 and was recently renewed by Congress, the DOJ is prohibited from spending federal money to interfere with state-level medical marijuana laws.
Sessions sent the letter in May and it was later obtained and released on Monday by marijuana newsite Massroots.com. In it, the attorney general said that the amendment inhibits the department’s ability to properly enforce the Controlled Substance Act, under which marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. 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,” Sessions wrote.
Since going into effect, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has received robust supported from members of Congress of all party lines. In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who sponsored the bill, said, “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.”
Thirty U.S. states have laws allowing patients with a variety of conditions to use medical marijuana as a form of treatment, and support for medical marijuana has continued to increase countrywide. An April Quinnipiac Poll found 94 percent of voters favored allowing patients to use medical marijuana for medicinal purposes with a doctor’s prescription, and 73 percent favored reducing marijuana from its Schedule I drug status.
Contrary to Sessions’s remarks regarding the drug epidemic sweeping the nation—which is actually in reference to the ongoing opioid and heroin crisis—there have been several studies cited by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) that list medical marijuana as beneficial in opioid death and overdose reduction in states that have medical marijuana laws.
In his letter, Sessions also called attention to the “significant health effects” caused by smoking marijuana, referencing NIDA's lists of health risks associated with pot, including “an increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as psychosis, respiratory ailments such as lung infections, cognitive impairments such as IQ loss, and substance use disorder and addiction.”
President Donald Trump was supportive of medical marijuana measures at the state level during his campaign (he even said he knew people who benefited from medical marijuana treatment). However, after the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was recently extended by Congress through September 30, Trump issued a signing statement noting he would “treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” indicating that he could potentially undermine the policy.
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