Jeff Sessions, the United States’ Attorney General is a staunch detractor of the movement to legalize marijuana. He made his stance clear soon after he took office. But last week, on a key Senate Panel, the attorney general made a quick turnaround and acknowledged that there are probably some medical benefits from marijuana and it is perfectly appropriate to study the plant.
Although it seemed that Sessions has the change of heart, he quickly dismissed a huge load of evidence that legal marijuana use is a huge factor in the decrease of opioid issues.
Sessions recognized that there are some research and studies that indicate that death from opioid overdose are indeed decreasing in states where they allow marijuana use but he doesn’t believe that this change brought about by marijuana can be sustained for a long time.
The attorney general also indicated that the federal government would eventually take some actions in giving out licenses to more individuals and businesses to be able to legally grow cannabis plants for research purposes.
“We are moving forward and we will add fairly soon, I believe, the paperwork and reviews will be completed and we will add additional suppliers of marijuana under the controlled circumstances,” Sessions said during an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.
Two years ago, the Drug Enforcement Administration legislated a new policy which proposes to give out more licenses for research cultivators. The DEA has reported that they received at least 25 applications that requested to join the new program but the agency has not yet acted on those applications.
The Washington Post reports that this was the issue because the officials of the federal Justice Department interjected with the proceedings and prevented the Drug Enforcement Administration from approving any of the applications.
When he was asked by Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii about the topic, Sessions said that the treaties require certain controls and specifications.
He added that in his opinion, the previous proposals have some parts that infringed the agreements. He closed the topic by saying that they are evolving the issue and prioritizing it among others.
Schatz also mentioned that there are reasonable civil rights reasons for legalizing and pursuing a federalist approach to the topic.
The attorney general did not give a specific time frame on the schedule of the release of the amended research cultivation endorsement
Despite accepting the potential of medical cannabis as an alternative form of medication, Sessions still has issues on the way it is currently consumed.
According to Sessions, a physician once told him that aside from the unhealthy form marijuana is ingested, most often than not, marijuana smokers don’t have a fixed prescription plan on their intake.
Several of the proponents of the marijuana legalization movement welcomed the attorney general’s admission that the plant can indeed help patients. But they hope that the words turn into action as they still push the Justice Department to allow more research as well as to have more and broader policy changes as soon as possible.
Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML said that there are still over two million registered medical cannabis patients that can verify and give testimonies regarding the attorney general’s newfound revelation.
Strekal added that what they need is more research on consumer quality cannabis, lawful protection for the licensed markets, and less deliberating in the Department of Justice.
Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska also voiced her concerns later in that Senate hearing. She cited a resolution that was approved in Alaska that urges the federal government to respect the local cannabis laws.
Murkowski also tried to elicit a commitment from Sessions saying that he should not use his powers to oppose the actions of the Congress to reform federal marijuana policies.
Sessions replied that he cannot promise and cannot say what position they would take as of the moment until they fully analyze what’s involved.
However, the attorney general said that as of the moment, their priorities are the more dangerous drugs like cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and heroin that have taken the lives of a huge number of people.
He also said that they have very few, almost zero marijuana cases at hand. Sessions ended his response that even with virtually no cases if they catch a big operation that is illegally operating and violates the federal law, they have no choice but to send his agents to work on the case.