As more than half of the states in the country recognize the power of cannabis and choose to legalize it in some form, the federal government still blindly claims that it has no medicinal value, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly rescinding a policy that keeps federal prosecutors from aggressively enforcing federal law in states where cannabis is legal.
The announcement is expected Thursday, according to two sources cited by a report from the Associated Press. The policy was initially put in place by the Obama Administration in 2013, acknowledging that states should be in charge of what their cannabis policy was, and how they prosecuted offenders who violated it.
Interference from the federal level was always feared in states that legalized cannabis for recreational use, because the plant is still labeled as a Schedule I drug by the federal government—despite an increasing wealth of research that has shown its medicinal value.
The sources told the AP that Sessions’ policy “will let U.S. attorneys across the country decide what kinds of federal resources to devote to marijuana enforcement based on what they see as priorities in their districts.” As has been the case with the War on Drugs since its inception, such a policy could be used by U.S. attorneys to target low-income cannabis users in states such as Colorado and California, while ignoring wealthy cannabis users—even though both groups were using the plant legally in their respective states.
The report noted that this change in policy on cannabis says more about the views of Sessions than it does about the views of President Trump. Sessions has been an outspoken critic of cannabis, claiming that it is violent and as dangerous as heroin. He has also said in the past that he wished the federal government would do more to fight back against states that are legalizing cannabis—now he could be getting his wish.
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say ‘marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” Sessions said in April 2016.
Now, by pushing for the federal government’s involvement, Sessions is taking a plant and making it dangerous for the people who chose to use it legally. Instead of ignoring the harmless plant and the fact that it has yet to cause a single death, Sessions is acting in the interest of the prison industrial complex and the dangerous consequences that it carries, which often ruin the lives of those who are caught in its grasp.
State’s rights be damned!
Trump says in this video that he’d never let his pick for Attorney General ban recreational marijuana, says it should be up to the states. Maybe he should tell Jeff Sessions this. pic.twitter.com/2ApgycbVzu
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) January 4, 2018
Not only has legal cannabis not increased violence or poverty, it has actually helped to stimulate the economy in the states where it is legalized. As the AP noted, while cannabis has only been legal for recreational use in California since Jan. 1, it is already expected “to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue within several years.”
In Colorado, legalizing cannabis has actually helped to decrease opioid-related deaths, reversing a decade of rising deaths plaguing the state. Cannabis legalization has also helped to fix the state’s crumbling schools, and for the second year in a row, $40 million from taxes on legal cannabis sales went to a program to repair and replace rundown schools in 2017.
While Sessions may never acknowledge it, research on cannabis has proven that its medicinal benefits go far beyond anything manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry.
In 2017 alone, studies were released showing that cannabis has a “significant effect” on killing cancer cells; reduces the need for prescription pain medication, thus curing opioid addiction; can be used as a treatment to help prevent HIV from becoming AIDS; has been found to work as a “miracle” treatment for children with autism; has been shown to significantly reduce seizures from epilepsy in 90 percent of patients; and it can used by Emergency Rooms to treat stroke and cardiac arrest.
As Jeff Sessions continues to wage a war on the plant that is winning the War on Drugs and taking down the pharmaceutical industry, a recent poll reveals that he is also at odds with the 86 percent of Americans who believe cannabis should be legalized in some form.