Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday about matters linked to Russian interference in the 2016 election, but his own focus as of late seems to be on other matters: namely, prosecuting medical marijuana providers.
In a letter he wrote to Congress back in May, which was obtained by the news site MassRoots.com and published on Monday, Sessions requested that congressional leaders help him in his battle with legal cannabis by letting him essentially override state marijuana laws. Congressional leaders would do this by agreeing not to renew a current federal law, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents the Justice Department from interfering with medical-marijuana decisions made at the state level.
“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,” he wrote in the letter. “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.”
As Rolling Stone previously reported, the “historic drug epidemic” that Sessions referenced, and which currently claims 140 lives a day, is due to opioid addiction, not marijuana use. And according to The Washington Post, states in which medical marijuana is legal have in fact seen a lower rate of opioid addiction and abuse. (Medical marijuana has increasingly been used to help reduce opioid addiction.)
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has been in place since 2014, and has allowed medical marijuana providers to operate in states where it is legal, without threat of federal prosecution
Sessions’ dogged attempts to do away with medical marijuana legalization are longstanding. In a speech about violent crime in Richmond, Virginia, this past March, Sessions called cannabis use a “life-wrecking dependency” and said that it will “destroy your life.”
“I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” he said during a follow-up Q&A with reporters.
And it seems as though his views have the president’s support. As a candidate, President Trump repeatedly promised that he would respect state marijuana laws if elected, even noting that he knew people who had personally benefited from medical marijuana use. But when he signed a fiscal-year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill into law last month, he signed a statement that gave him the right to ignore medical marijuana protections, reversing his stance.
“I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” Trump wrote.