Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs the world over. This is especially true among the younger generation, despite it being illegal in most nations. In the U.S, some states have yet to legalize marijuana us, causing a bit of confusion among American citizens. Worse yet, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recently gone on record to support the use of medical marijuana, when he had previously been dead set against it. Let’s take a look at how he came about his decision.
On April 25th, 2018, Sessions went before the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee panel and acknowledged that indeed there are some benefits from medical marijuana. He went further to support the appropriateness of studying cannabis for medical uses. Many were a little taken aback as the Attorney General had previously gone on record to say that he did not believe that medical marijuana was a medicine.
During his speech, Sessions admitted having seen research indicating lower overdose deaths in states that allow marijuana use. However, he was fast to criticize the current use of cannabis, suggesting that it is not being used for medical purposes. This is not too shocking as indeed younger people seem to be using it more especially in states where marijuana use is legal. A recent poll on the matter asserts this claim as it found out that one in four young adults uses cannabis every so often.
Additionally, Sessions indicated that steps to license more marijuana growing entities would soon be taken. However, he had some conditions for this as they would be for marijuana research only. Also, he did not give a timeline on the same, raising some questions on his end game.
In 2016, the DEA enacted a policy that was intended to license more marijuana research growers. Since then, the agency has received at least 25 applications but has yet to act on any of them. According to the Washington Post, this delay has been caused by top Justice Department officials who stepped in to prevent DEA from approving them.
However, one can sympathize with Sessions’ dilemma as, during his answers to the Senate committee, he admitted that allowing the research would expose the U.S to the risk of violating international drug treaties. Furthermore, he seemed hesitant to give an actual timeline as he considered that most people who take medical marijuana do not have a prescription for it. In his view, it is just another excuse to get high within the confines of a medical prescription.
Advocates of marijuana being legalized were pleasantly surprised at his new stand. Considering that he had previously worked against their beliefs, this came as a good shocker. However, they urged the Justice Department to act on allowing cannabis research and broadening policy changes sooner. In their defense, they supported that marijuana does indeed help many patients, and the recent drag in research was a great hindrance to patients’ health.
Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, told Marijuana Moment that what Americans needed was better research on consumer marijuana as well as lawful policies for legal markets. During his interview, he pointed out that the continued deliberations from the DoJ were affecting over two million registered medical marijuana patients in the legal markets.
In his testimony, AG Sessions told the subcommittee that the priority of drug agents and federal prosecutors was heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine, and not cannabis. However, he stated that if indeed cannabis agents ‘were illegally acting and violating federal law,’ their agents would work on that case.
Sessions remain opposed to the idea that cannabis is helping to address the U.S opioid addiction crisis. He still does not think that it is safe to use medical marijuana, which may indicate why his office is slow in giving a timeline for the research program to kick off. Despite studies showing that legalized medical cannabis has caused a reduction in opioid overdose, Sessions believes that this development will not be sustained in the long run. However, he acknowledged this and even asked his staff to look further into the matter, as he views science to be very important in combating drug addiction.
Many are confused as to how U.S Attorney General Sessions will tackle the research of medical marijuana. This is as a result of his change of heart in the matter, yet research is still on hold. However, patients of medical grade cannabis can rest assured that his changed views on the matter are the right step towards more research. It will take some time though.