Sessions, citing drug epidemic and crime, wants to go after medical marijuana

Citing a “historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has urged Congress to end protections for medical marijuana.

Sessions made the request to Congress in a May 1 letter revealed on Monday by Massroots.com.

Since 2014, medical marijuana programs have been protected from federal intervention by amendments to budget bills that bar the Department of Justice from using any of its appropriated funds to prevent states from "implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

The amendment is often referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, although it is now co-written by Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, and Earl Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat.

Despite Sessions’ letter, Congress included protective language in the spending bill passed in early May — but the provision will be in effect only through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

“Sessions is completely out of step with the American people, and this request shows a blatant disregard for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on these programs for treatment,” Blumenauer said in a statement Tuesday.

Sen. Ron Wyden, another Oregon Democrat, also put out a statement criticizing Sessions.

Jeff Sessions is again showing he only values upholding states’ rights when he thinks the state is right," Wyden said. "Any attempt to waste taxpayer dollars by going after law-abiding citizens would run contrary to the science on marijuana, not to mention basic common sense."

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have made marijuana legal for medical use, and a recent Marist poll found 83 percent of Americans support the idea.

Sessions has frequently linked marijuana to the "drug epidemic." But the issue there is prescription opioids and heroin, and, ironically, research that shows "states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate."

The Sessions letter was one sign that the Trump administration could try to step up enforcement of federal marijuana prohibitions as legalization spreads in the country. On Tuesday, there was another: The Oregonian reported that the U.S. attorney for Oregon called a meeting with state officials to discuss a preliminary state report that found Oregon is a big source nationally for black market marijuana.

"Overproduction is definitely concerning and the violation of the state and federal law, diverting it to other areas of the country is very concerning and we are looking at it," Williams told the Oregonian.

The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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