U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said repeatedly that he intends to enforce federal laws against the possession or use of marijuana, which he considers only slightly less harmful than heroin.
“I am astonished,” Sessions has said, “to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”
At a time in which 44 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. have all made pot legal for medical purposes and in some cases for recreational purposes, Sessions’ threats have caused considerable consternation. It had led a lot of people to lobby Congress to do something, and at least for a few more months, the elected officials have found a stopgap solution.
Sessions apparently is not impressed by statistics or medical research on the subject. Last year there were about 13,000 deaths from heroin doses, but not even one from pot use. There is also evidence that where pot is available the number of people using and addicted to prescription opiates goes down dramatically.
Three is also medical research now as well as anecdotal evidence that marijuana can have highly therapeutic benefits for everything from cancer patients to those suffering mental problems.
Here is how Congress has shut Sessions down: In the $1 trillion bill funding the U.S. government at least through September, a bipartisan group in Congress has not allocated any funding for Sessions and the Justice Department to pursue enforcement of the federal marijuana laws at least for fiscal 2017.
Under President Obama, there was a directive to the Justice Department not to interfere in states where pot use is allowed for medical or recreational purposes. Sessions Justice Department has been reviewing that, but now will not be able to immediately change the policy.
As California on January 1, 2018, joins Colorado, Washington State and others who have made marijuana use legal for all purposes, Americans have shown they are ready for a change in the laws and are against federal enforcement of the old laws. A recent CBS poll indicated 61 percent of Americans want marijuana legalized, and 71 percent do not want the feds to enforce pot laws in states where it is already legal for any purpose.
A recent CBS poll indicated 61 percent of Americans want marijuana legalized, and 71 percent do not want the feds to enforce pot laws in states where it is already legal for any purpose.
Ultimately, marijuana should be removed completely from the federal laws on controlled substances, say advocates, but under a Trump administration that seems unlikely. So for now, pot proponents will have to settle for at least a few months without the threat of the federal big brother coming down on them.
This year legal pot is expected to be a business generating over $7.1 billion. That is producing significant tax revenue in Colorado and other states where it is legal. That will increase and could grow exponentially if the federal threat is removed, opening the way for pot sellers to be able to use banks that are under a federal charter.
Even Trump at times has shown sympathy toward the medical use of marijuana. For now, as Trump and Sessions and their pals sip alcoholic beverages – a product that produces a lot more disease, death and social upheaval than pot – marijuana users can puff safely thanks to some supporters in Congress.
It is a temporary solution but it is also an issue that could have an impact on voters in the future as the U.S. adopts a more realistic approach to drug use of all kinds.
It is time to end the costly excessive government war on drugs and invent a more humane and sensible approach that will help people, cut crime, lower the prison population and allow everyone to have the cocktail of their choice – or not.