State medical marijuana laws are under attack. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, long a known opponent of legalization, is petitioning Congress to scrap the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which promises legal states protection from federal interference and harassment. In a recently publicized letter from May, Sessions plans to override federal medical marijuana protections given to states.
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment
States have the right to create their own cannabis laws, even if they contradict federal ones. According to Congress itself, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment prohibits the federal government from using federal funds to stalk anyone using, distributing, possessing, or cultivating medical marijuana in states where it is legal for them to do so. The Justice Department may not undermine the state’s rights.
In his letter, written in May and released publically on June 12, Sessions argues that Rohrabacher-Farr inhibits the ability and the authority of the Justice Department to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, under which marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug. He continues to justify his attempts to override state medical marijuana laws with the following statement:
“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.”
Federal Medical Marijuana Protections
Unfortunately, cracking down on medical cannabis to combat an “historic drug epidemic” contradicts current research about drug use patterns in the United States. The epidemic we face is due to opioids and not marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid fatalities and overdoses are declining by as much as 25 percent in legal states. It also has high potential to treat addiction.
During April 2016, in a widely publicized Senate drug hearing, Sessions claimed that grown-ups should run Washington, or at least those not afraid to admit it should remain illegal and that minimizing it underscores its very real dangers. In actuality, research strongly indicates that targeting medical marijuana laws would worsen the opiate epidemic further instead.
Although some argue that this move is just political fearmongering, it could nonetheless influence congressional members in ways that could threaten the Amendment and destroy its future. The Justice Department attempted to override Rohrabacher-Farr under President Barack Obama too. It deliberately misled Congress members in the language that defied enforcement or logic.
A federal judge ruled the move a statute violation and against even the basic idea of what the rule of law means. Sessions may have a trying time convincing Congress, who is supportive of federal medical marijuana protections, for the most part. Additionally, voters are in favor of legalization, and in some places, 94 percent of voters want patients to have access to it.
Others polls suggest that nearly three-quarters of the public oppose federal enforcement of marijuana laws, particularly in states where it legal either recreationally or medicinally. The people want the government to stop meddling. Attorney General Sessions has an opposing view to the overwhelming majority of citizens, including patients and veterans, who are living proof that medical cannabis works.
Medical Marijuana Laws
Cannabis legalization is a politically complex situation. The Trump administration is beginning to tackle the issue, and marijuana advocates are debating how it may unfold. During his campaign, Trump appeared supportive of states regulating their own cannabis laws, even saying they should have the freedom to create their own policies. This letter by Sessions, however, undermines that notion.
The Attorney General is explicitly appealing to Congress to allow the Justice Department to harass and prosecute medical cannabis providers, and accompanying the letter was a signed statement from Trump questioning these protections. People should be skeptical of Trump’s rhetoric, as actually implementing enforcement actions against states would lose him much support over this widespread public issue.