Summer Sessions Watch
Good ol' Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become the unwitting star of these cannabis news pieces. He's a natural-born villain with those giant wet eyes and that tiny sour face. Word on the Hill is that each night, when the sun goes down, he skitters up the exterior of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building and takes his place on the roof as a living gargoyle. From his perch he surveys the city and mutters curses against that evil weed “marihuana” between yellowed teeth and over bloody gums.
Sessions is the perfect personification of Old America—distrustful of facts, driven by paranoia and skating the edge of senility—the archetypal angry dad. He's the perfect symbol of everything we've left behind in the march of progress. Too bad he's in charge of the Justice Department.
But as I've pointed out before, every effort he makes to block the legalization of cannabis only strengthens the opposition. Why? Because we hate Sessions, and anything he says is bullshit.
To wit: According to a Quinnipiac University national poll released on April 20, 94 percent of voters support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it.” The poll also found that 73 percent of voters were opposed to government enforcement of federal laws against cannabis in states that have legalized medical or recreational use.
I'd wonder what Sessions thought about those numbers, but I'm sure he never looked. How could numbers compete with what he feels in his gut?
What the Butler Saw
Perhaps he was going with his gut when he sent a letter to congressional leaders in May personally asking that they undo the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which protects dispensaries in states with legalized medical cannabis from federal prosecution by denying the Justice Department the use of funds to pursue cases in those states.
The letter was made public last month by MassRoots.com, who reportedly received it from a congressional staffer, and was verified independently by the Washington Post. In it, Sessions tells Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Representative Nancy Pelosi that the amendment inhibits the Justice Department's authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act. He went on to say that “it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”
Of course the “historic drug epidemic” he's referring to is the opiate problem we're encountering here in the US. Ironically, even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (which generally holds harsh views on cannabis) has found evidence that deaths caused by prescription opioid overdoses are lower in states where medical cannabis is legal—meaning Sessions' crusade against cannabis could actually worsen the problem he claims to be fighting.
Luckily, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has bipartisan support in Congress, and despite constant pushes against it from the Justice Department (similar pushback occurred during the Obama administration), it continues to hold.
Bill Fights Back
A group of senators with different party and ideological affiliations joined together to introduce legislation that will block Sessions from going after medical cannabis. House Resolution 2920—the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS)—which would allow state laws legalizing medical cannabis to supersede current federal laws, would make cannabis accessible to epilepsy patients and veterans and would loosen research restrictions that have been placed on researching cannabis' medical applications. The bill would also legalize the sale of cannabidiol (CBD)—the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis that has been shown to effectively reduce epileptic seizures—in all 50 states.
The bill was originally introduced in 2015 and was rejected. What makes proponents optimistic this time around is its bipartisan support. The original bill was sponsored by Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul. Now it has six sponsors with the addition of Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mike Lee.
The only bad thing about the bill is that if it goes through, Sessions' hands will be tied when it comes to prosecuting medical cannabis users and distributors—meaning I won't have a bogey man to write about. Oh well. I'm sure I'll figure out something.