“Smoking marijuana… has significant health risks,” wrote U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 1 in a letter to select members of Congress. In the letter, A.G. Sessions was particularly harsh in reference to state-authorized medical marijuana programs, claiming some state-registered patients and caregivers are “causing harm to their communities”.
Sessions also wrote, “…marijuana use is linked to 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.” Sessions cites as his source the Feb. 2017 publication from NIDA titled Drug Facts on Marijuana.
The letter was revealed on Monday June 12 by Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority and Massroots.com and was reported on by the Washington Post on Tuesday, June 13. The letter comes at a time when citizens are trying to sort out the President Trump rhetoric from the real views regarding marijuana law reform of the man and his administration representatives, including A.G. Sessions.
The Sessions letter was addressed to the Senate and House leaders of both parties, and was copied to the heads of the respective Appropriations Committees from both parties. In the letter, Sessions appeals to Congressional leaders to remove the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment from the current draft of the nation’s 2018 budget; the amendment prohibits federal prosecutors from using federal funds to charge anyone with marijuana crimes who is compliant with their own state’s rules and regulations for cannabis use, possession, distribution or cultivation.
In his letter, Sessions tries to make the case that Court interpretations of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment robbed the DOJ of the authority to “prevent certain states” from “implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Sessions outlined two areas where he felt the DOJ has been inhibited by court decisions: “Department actions that prevent states from implementing their laws regarding medical marijuana” and “Department prosecutions of certain individuals and organizations that operate under those laws.”
To make his case in favor of federal medical marijuana prosecutions, Sessions reminds the Congresspersons that we are “in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.” He then references a need to stomp out “transnational drug organizations” and others who “threaten American lives.”
“Drug traffickers already cultivate and distribute marijuana inside the United States under the guise of state medical marijuana laws,” Sessions wrote, adding that “criminal organizations have established marijuana operations in state-approved marijuana markets.”
In the letter, Sessions claims foreign drug gangs “often find a place for themselves within state regulatory systems.” He cites a Colorado case where “an individual who held an active Colorado license for operating a medical marijuana business was the ringleader of a criminal organization that also shipped marijuana out of state.”
Sessions ended the letter the way it began- with scare tactics- by citing a letter authored by the DEA and HHS in denying a recent petition to remove cannabis from the group of non-medical drugs established in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act:
“…marijuana has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”
Of particular note in the Sessions letter is the opening paragraph, wherein the United States Attorney General says, “I write to renew the Department of Justice’s opposition to the inclusion of language in any appropriations legislation that would prohibit the use of Department of Justice funds or in any way inhibit its authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).”
It is, of course the U.S. Congress who dictate the appropriate use of federal funds, and it is the U.S. Congress which dictates the terms of the Controlled Substances Act, including which drugs are covered by it and which methods of law enforcement action are appropriate and which are not. Those Congressionally-derived operating parameters can be delivered in a number of ways, including through amendments in appropriations bills. This statement from Sessions seems to suggest a Trumpian power grab, indicating that he does not respect Congressional authority to regulate his actions nor the work of the DOJ.