Sessions Asked Congress To Let Him Go After Medical Marijuana Providers

By Kelly Burch 06/15/17

It was revealed this week that the Attorney General asked for budget protections for MMJ to be repealed in May. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Congress to undo an established federal protection for states that have medical marijuana legislation. The protection was passed anyway, and will be in effect until at least September.

According to a May letter that was made public earlier this week, Sessions asked congressional leaders to exclude a budget provision known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which forbids any federal funds to be used to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The amendment has been included on every budget since 2014, and was renewed in May.

In the letter, Sessions wrote, “I believe 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. 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.”

He went on to outline the negative health effects of marijuana and claimed, “Drug traffickers already cultivate and distribute marijuana inside the United States under the guise of state medical marijuana laws.”

Despite pressure from Sessions, the amendment has broad support from both parties in Congress. 

In an email to The Washington Post, John Hudak of the Brookings Institution said the letter is a "scare tactic" that "could appeal to rank-and-file members or to committee chairs in Congress in ways that could threaten the future of this Amendment.”

Others say that Sessions’ claims in the letter run contrary to science. Despite his mention of the ongoing drug epidemic and attempts to link that to medical marijuana, a 2014 study found that states with medical marijuana programs had, on average, 25% fewer opioid overdose deaths than those without. 

In addition, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found “strong evidence” that marijuana provides pain relief, potentially lowering the need for highly addictive opioid painkillers. 

In response to Sessions' doubts about cannabis, The Washington Post published an article in February outlining the science covering opioids and marijuana, none of which indicates a link between medical marijuana and increased opioid use. 

None of this has changed the 70-year-old's harsh stance toward medical marijuana. 

“States, they can pass the laws they choose,” he said during a February Justice Department press briefing. “I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.