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As cannabis legalization sweeps the nation, a small group of U.S. senators held a desperate anti-pot circus show this week where they displayed the absurdity of cannabis prohibition. The hearing was dubbed “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public From the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?”

Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, the two oldest members of the Senate, hosted the event and invited other prohibition crusaders such as Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson, who attempted to sue Colorado for being a drug cartel. Sen. Jeff Sessions also attended and provided perhaps the most laughable statement of the hearing when he said, "good people don't smoke marijuana."

“I can't tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we've made....

It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it's not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don't smoke marijuana.”

It’s hard to know where to begin with this asinine statement. Firstly, Sessions insulted about half of the American population who use cannabis. Pot has never seemed to stifle success, but surely the righteous Senator would not dare insult his fellow statesmen who have used the plant recreationally.

All those people treating their health ailments with cannabis, whether smoked or its extracts eaten, can’t be doing any good in healing themselves. Medical science should not be promoting such bad behavior!

On a more serious note, as we discover the miraculous functions of the endocannabinoid system, we are finding ways to harness that system through the application of cannabis compounds to both heal and prevent disease.

The National Cancer Institute has recognized that cannabis kills cancer. The American Epilepsy Society has deemed cannabis the most promising treatment for seizures. We have reported on numerous studies and instances of the incredible potential of cannabis in treating epileptic seizures.

Many veterans of war are finding the only thing that can treat the post-traumatic stress disorder is cannabis, with some able to give up harmful prescription drugs. But these aren’t “good people” to Sen. Sessions, even if they are avoiding mental breakdowns by using the plant.

Indeed, all cannabis use can be considered therapeutic. Conditions that are treated with dangerous pharmaceutical drugs—marketed by a lucrative partnership between government and Big Pharma—can instead be alleviated with a plant that anyone can grow.

With all that we now know about cannabis, it is truly a mystery how anyone—especially one of a hundred Senators who profess to lead our nation in progress—can cling to the fallacies of 20th-century prohibition.

Sen. Grassley set the stage for the hearing with this characterization:

“In 2013, the Department of Justice decided to all but abandon the enforcement of federal law relating to the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana in states that were in the process of becoming the only jurisdictions in the world to legalize and regulate all these activities for recreational use.”

The only thing being abandoned, sir, is the idea that a medicinal plant should be treated as something to be eradicated, and that people using it should be made into criminals.

The outdated senators are longing for the days of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign while her husband ushered in the height of the drug war. Full-on prohibition brought skyrocketing jail populations of people who committed victimless crimes, and fueled an immense black market that creates death and worsens addiction.

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This nefarious legacy of Reagan was built on decades of lies and propaganda. Participants at Tuesday’s hearing channeled the ghost of Reefer Madness, with Grassley attempting to link cannabis use to rising heroin addiction.

“Just last year, the Centers for Disease Control found that people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin. So if the Obama Administration is serious about addressing this epidemic, it should stop burying its head in the sand about what’s happening to its enforcement priorities on recreational marijuana.”

This deception could not be more dangerous, as it hides the real reason behind the heroin epidemic - prescription opioid pills. When people run out of money and the government makes it harder to get pills, they turn to much cheaper and more readily available heroin.

In fact, the opposite of what Grassley said is true. Cannabis can reduce heroin abuse by avoiding the use of opioid pills. As we reported last August, deaths from opioid painkillers plummet in states with legal cannabis.

More researchers are suggesting their patients try medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid pills. Astonishing numbers of people are reporting that they substitute cannabis for prescription drugs.

While the senators hold a sham hearing on the mythical evils of cannabis, Grassley is refusing to hold hearings on legislation that would legalize medical cannabis use and downgrade it from a Schedule 1 classification. Unlike Grassley's lack of factual information, the CARERS Act is based on overwhelming scientific evidence.

The remarks of the clueless senators would be amusing if they weren’t so dangerous. Sessions said, “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”

But this is not surprising coming from a man who disputed the point that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol by saying, “Lady Gaga says she's addicted to it and it is not harmless.”

The good news is that, in all likelihood, hardly anyone will take this farce of a hearing seriously. The senators and their few allies represent a disappearing breed of drug war crusaders fueled by stubborn irrationality, and apparently wish to take this reputation into retirement.

If you find what you watched in the video above at all disturbing, feel free to peacefully reach out to these clearly out of touch people and voice your concern.

United States Senate

Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Hart Senate Office Building
Room 818-C
Washington, D.C. 20510

Phone: 202-224-9032