Jeff Sessions Asks to Remove Rohrabacher-Farr amendment
The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment was introduced in 2003. The amendment essentially stated that the Justice Department would no longer be able to spend money interfering with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. After six failed attempts, it passed the House in May 2014 and became law in December 2014. This was the first time in history either chamber of Congress voted to protect medical marijuana patients. While the bill was a huge victory for cannabis advocates, the amendment needs to be renewed every fiscal year to remain in effect.
Jeff Sessions was nominated by Donald Trump for the position of US Attorney General. On February 8th, 2017, he was confirmed with a 52-47 vote in the Senate and proceeded to be sworn in on February 9th. Sessions is a relatively controversial figure as he is wrapped up in the current Russia investigation. In may of this year Sessions sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to not renew the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment which currently prevents his department from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana patients.
In his letter, Jeff Sessions argued that the amendment would ‘‘inhibit [the department’s] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.’’ He went on to state “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 a 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.”
Citing the “historic drug epidemic” Isn’t the best argument to use in this particular situation. The current drug epidemic mostly involves overdose deaths of addictive drugs such as opioids, heroin, fentanyl and the like. Justifying going after medical marijuana with a public health crisis that kills 91 Americans every day is irresponsible. Medical marijuana is amazing at managing chronic pain, and according to studies when people have access to it, opioid abuse goes down. One such study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows that states with legal cannabis have lower rates of hospital visits for opioid abuse. Patient hospitalization rates for opioid abuse in states with medical marijuana are approximately 23% lower than states without medical marijuana. And emergency room visits for opioid abuse is roughly 13% lower than states that have no medical cannabis programs. Not to mention the fact that cannabis is impossible to overdose on. There are currently no recorded deaths from someone ingesting cannabis.
Jeff Sessions has not historically had the best opinions on cannabis. Sessions stated in March of this year that to end the opioid crisis we would need to use criminal enforcement and better treatment options. Not by offering addicts something that’s “only slightly less awful” like legal cannabis.
According to the New York Times, One African-American prosecutor testified that Jeff Sessions had joked that the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot”
And of course, his most famous cannabis quote, “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about . . . and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
We can only hope that his appeal to Congress to remove the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment goes unheeded.