All posts tagged: opinions

In VA secretary scandals, it’s veterans who suffer

(CNN)Over the last week, the national media turned its attention to our veterans. Unfortunately, it was not because of new studies about the problem of veteran suicide, or to draw attention to the national movement to legalize medical marijuana to safely treat injuries of war. It was because President Trump nominated his personal doctor, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Even before the scandal unfolded, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) surveyed veterans nationwide and found that only a small group of post-9/11 veterans supported Dr. Jackson’s nomination. The drama may have died down in the media, but it’s still front and center for millions of veterans and hundreds of thousands of dedicated VA employees nationwide, who now face the prospect of a stunning eighth nominee for VA secretary since 9/11.
This painful and tumultuous Ronny Jackson chapter for VA and our nation’s veterans has come to an end. But the volatile, damaging saga continues. After Secretary David Shulkin’s controversies –– including allegations of misusing taxpayer funds — and eventual exit consumed weeks of headlines, Jackson’s controversies consumed still more. It’s been an unprecedented two months of chaos, political agendas and uncertainty. And millions of veterans and their families have paid the price.
    In the few weeks since Dr. Jackson was first nominated by President Trump, an estimated 333,502 veterans were waiting for disability claims with the VA, 11,000 veterans started using the GI Bill to pay for college, 60,000 veterans in suicidal crisis called the Veterans Crisis Line, and 600 veterans died by suicide.
    The secretary of the VA is responsible for the second largest department in the federal government — one with a budget of more than $180 billion and over 300,000 staff, the welfare of millions of our brother and sister veterans, and critical programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and cemeteries nationwide. And the VA secretary is one of the single most important voices in America for all veterans.
    But instead of stability, leadership and solutions, veterans once again face uncertainty. Our community is exhausted by the unnecessary and seemingly never-ending reality show-type drama. VA’s reputation is damaged, staff is demoralized, momentum is stalled and the future is shockingly unclear.
    This year of failures and debacles has been exhausting, and veterans nationwide still have grueling challenges ahead of us to ensure we get the care and resources we were promised. And yet again, our energy is drained by another senseless political scandal — one that could have easily been avoided.
    Our veterans deserve better. We are simply looking for a competent, proven and dynamic leader with integrity that can lead our nation forward out of this storm of darkness and into a brighter future. Hundreds of thousands of IAVA members nationwide are standing by to help the President find and vet a man or woman who is up to this historic leadership challenge.
    More than ever before, we need someone who can ensure VA stands most of all, for Veterans Advocate. And we need the President to do the same. In the meantime, we will continue to share our voices, unite our community and fill in the gaps as best we can.

    Join us on Twitter and Facebook

    We call on all Americans now to answer the call in this time of need and support our VA staff, our non-profit service providers and our veterans service organizations across America. Read the questions asked by hundreds of veterans and active military nationwide. Demand answers. All of us on the frontlines of veterans support, healthcare and empowerment need reinforcements now more than ever.

    Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

    Marissa SafontIn VA secretary scandals, it’s veterans who suffer
    read more

    Kushner’s effort to sway Trump on prison reform is smart

    (CNN)Conventional wisdom told us that we should have lost all hope for any federal criminal justice reform after President Donald Trump was elected. His law and order rhetoric as a candidate and his nomination, as President, of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General were alarming.

    Prior to Trump’s nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidency, both political parties had been moving in a positive direction on fixing our broken criminal justice system. In 2015, I co-hosted a Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform with Newt Gingrich, Pat Nolan and Donna Brazile. Speakers ranging from then-Attorney General Eric Holder to conservative Georgia Governor Nathan Deal all agreed that the system was unnecessarily funneling people struggling with addiction, mental illness and poverty into our prisons and jails.
    And over the past several years, a few brave Republican governors and party leaders led the charge in making a three-pronged conservative argument against a criminal justice system that encroaches on individual liberties, wastes financial resources and infringes on Christian values of redemption and mercy.
      The Bipartisan Summit and several other bipartisan efforts spurred intense debate on Capitol Hill — nearly resulting in an overhaul of the federal justice system during the last Congressional session.

        Jeff Sessions’ conservative agenda

      And while a comprehensive criminal justice overhaul fell short, progress was made through the 21st Century CURES Act in a lame-duck compromise. That bill bundled $1 billion in spending to fight the opioid epidemic with $2 billion in funding for Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer research “moonshot” and alternatives to incarceration for people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. It also established training programs for law enforcement officers and prison guards in identifying and effectively responding to individuals with mental illness.
      But the election of Trump seemed to have killed all hope of progress — and introduced the specter of a rapid rollback to the worst days of the ill-considered drug war.
      Within the first months of Trump’s presidency, his administration reversed much of the progress made during President Barack Obama’s tenure. Doubling down on the use of private prisons, rolling back consent decrees and oversight of some of America’s most troubled police departments, and promising to seek the harshest punishments even in the case of low-level drug crimes.
      And Sessions recently rescinded an Obama-era memo to judges discouraging them from incarcerating people for not being able to pay fines and fees, and announced he would give US attorneys discretion on prosecuting marijuana cases in states where the drug had been legalized. Because of these actions, the federal prison population is predicted to increase this year, after a period of steep decline under the Obama administration. Unfortunately, we know communities of color will be disproportionately harmed.
      And yet, Kushner brought conservatives to the White House on Thursday to make the case to Trump himself.
      Kushner’s commitment to this issue seems personal. Having watched his father, Charles Kushner, sentenced to prison, he is likely to have an intimate understanding of how brutal and dehumanizing the criminal justice system can be. Kushner’s Office of American Innovation is tasked with bringing “new thinking and real change” to some of America’s most pressing challenges. There is no shortage of innovative ideas when it comes to fixing our criminal justice system.
      There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of these efforts. The Trump administration zig-zags famously and seems to be at war with itself on this issue. But there’s also some room for hope. Evidence-based policies to reduce prison time while boosting public safety have been championed by leading conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
      The question is how far Kushner can or will go. Some issues like mental health care, prison conditions and re-entry won’t run afoul of Sessions’ hard line. But real sentencing reform might create a showdown inside the administration and within the Republican caucus during what’s shaping up to be a heated midterm election year.
      Reformers on both sides have some reason to be optimistic. The present disaster that is America’s criminal justice system offends the highest values and deepest values of both political parties. Our criminal justice system has grown so out of control that an estimated 70 million Americans have a criminal record — meaning virtually every American has a friend, neighbor or loved one who’s been impacted. And according to a poll by the Charles Koch Institute, even 54% of Trump voters know someone who is or has been incarcerated.
      One area that is bringing all sides together is a campaign led by #cut50 to provide better treatment of women behind bars, thereby reducing the harmful consequences of incarceration on women, children and families.

      Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      Another area where there is agreement is better support and economic opportunity for individuals returning to their communities after incarceration. Both parties agree that public safety is best served when people leaving prison have meaningful opportunities to obtain housing, employment and education.
      An administration that on the one hand wants to roll back progress on medical marijuana can’t be fully trusted to handle the issue of justice reform optimally. But the American people are tired of the Washington, DC food fight and are looking for leadership. And for the millions of people behind bars and their families, any light in the darkness should be encouraged.

      Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

      Marissa SafontKushner’s effort to sway Trump on prison reform is smart
      read more

      Jeff Sessions’ marijuana move will backfire

      (CNN)Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he is rescinding the Cole memo, which reflected the Department of Justice’s relatively passive policy under the Obama administration since August 2013 on enforcement of federal cannabis laws.

      Unlike announcements from the DOJ in past years threatening to ramp up federal enforcement of the cannabis laws, this announcement was met with little more than a yawn by cannabis businesses.
      The harshest reaction came from local and state government officials — in California and in other states — who insisted that they were disappointed, concerned, and surprised by Sessions’ move.
        Now, unlike in prior years, government officials in California and elsewhere are totally aligned with cannabis businesses in resisting the federal government’s threats.
        In fact, the landscape has shifted so dramatically in recent years that some of the harshest critics of Sessions were senators and representatives, many of them prominent Republicans, from states with cannabis programs that generate much-needed medicine and tax revenue. They expressed outrage over this action by Sessions, claiming it belies promises he made to them before being confirmed by the Senate.
        As a result, Sessions has alienated many in Congress, where he can ill afford to lose any friends. Given his recusal — apparently against President Donald Trump’s wishes — from the Russia collusion investigation, he seems to be in a vulnerable spot with the President. Trump has said that he still stands with Sessions. But the attorney general still faces allegations from Democrats, who say that he perjured himself during last year’s confirmation hearings.
        Without protection from Republican allies in the Senate, Sessions’ next appearance on Capitol Hill could be bloody. Cannabis might be the issue that undermines Sessions’ already shaky support.
        Apart from Sessions’ announcement being unpopular, it really doesn’t have any teeth. The medical and legal cannabis industry has grown so big that it would be impossible to make a dent in it — let alone stamp it out through federal enforcement.
        Moreover, Sessions did not actually announce that there would be a crackdown on cannabis businesses, but rather that it would be left to the discretion of the local US attorneys in the various districts to decide how and when to enforce the federal laws. This does not amount to much of a substantive change in policy, which begs the question of why Sessions bothered to make the announcement at all.
        The Obama administration’s policy essentially left it to the individual states to regulate its respective cannabis industries provided those businesses did not engage in activities that threatened federal priorities, like serving as a cover for other illegal activity or violence.

          GOP senator fumes over marijuana memo reversal

        Under the Cole memo, in the past four-plus years, the already robust medical cannabis industry continued to evolve with more than half the states now allowing some form of medical cannabis use and commercial activity, and now eight states including California, Colorado, Washington and Nevada permitting recreational or adult use of recreational cannabis.
        Based on conversations I’ve had with federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, there does not appear to be much of an appetite on the part of federal prosecutors to go after cannabis. And if they do, at the moment their hands are tied, at least when it comes to medical cannabis. Since 2014, the federal budget has prohibited the DOJ from using federal funds to prosecute medical cannabis businesses pursuant to a budget rider championed by US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, a Republican who considers Sessions a “longtime friend.”
        The Sessions’ announcement was likely timed to create anxiety in California, only days after it began issuing permits for both medical and recreational cannabis businesses. California and its attorney general have been somewhat of a thorn in the side of the Trump administration, filing a number of lawsuits challenging various policies, and perhaps most significantly, allowing so-called “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants.

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        Although the spotlight seems to be on California, Colorado — a swing state — with a population that is dwarfed by California, has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue from its legalization of cannabis.
        It would be wise for Sessions to remember that cannabis businesses exist in red and purple states, too. Its investors include prominent Trump supporters like Todd Mitchem. Any real enforcement efforts would alienate this administration’s base and be a political risk.
        For all of these reasons, there isn’t much bark to Sessions’ bite. And in fact, it could precipitate a legal battle with California and other states — possibly overturning the authority of the federal government to even regulate legal cannabis businesses, an issue that has yet to be decided by the Supreme Court. That would be the ultimate irony to Sessions’ move and an appropriate epitaph on his fight against cannabis.

        Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

        Marissa SafontJeff Sessions’ marijuana move will backfire
        read more

        Sessions just made the opioid war harder to win

        (CNN)On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the federal policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. While controversial for many reasons, this move is first and foremost a significant step backward in our country’s fight against opioid addiction.

        Maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to come to Logan County, West Virginia, where I grew up. Maybe he needs to visit nearby Huntington, West Virginia, a town of nearly 49,000 that’s been dubbed the overdose capital of America. A town where opioid- and heroin-related crime has spiked to such levels that the National Guard is now backing up local law enforcement efforts.
        Maybe if he were to open the door to a public restroom and find someone overdosed on the floor, as have residents of Huntington and other West Virginia communities, then Sessions would rethink his disastrous decision to bring down the heavy hand of the federal government on states whose citizens and legislatures have opted to legalize medical cannabis.
          Sessions’ decision takes away one of the few effective tools we have for getting people off of opioids, off of heroin, bringing peace back to our streets and making our neighborhoods great again.
          In 2016 alone, drug overdoses killed nearly as many Americans as the total amount who died in the Vietnam War, according to a report from the Police Executive Research Forum.
          As a retired soldier, I know that if any person or nation killed that many Americans, we would pull up our bootstraps and go to war with them. How then can an administration which has rightfully declared opioid addiction a national emergency, strip us of our ability to fight?
          Medical cannabis can save lives in a country where opioids continue to take them. It offers patients an alternative to addictive opioids. It also helps combat withdrawal symptoms and could give those struggling with addiction a way to detox without feeling as though they are dying. It could be an effective way to help those who have fallen prey to addiction to rebuild their lives.
          Last year, as a freshman state senator, I sponsored legislation to legalize medical cannabis in West Virginia with the hopes that it would help our state combat opioid dependence. I’m a Democrat in a legislature where Republicans have a super-majority, but we were able to get this bill passed and signed by the governor in April 2017. This rare show of bipartisanship didn’t happen because we’re all singing Kumbaya and getting along. It happened because the devastation of addiction is so obvious where we live that my colleagues could not in good conscience deny our citizens a chance to escape this scourge.

            Will new Justice Dept. guidance affect legal pot?

          When our bill was signed into law, I felt hopeful. We still don’t have nearly enough treatment facilities or nearly enough funding to deal with the overwhelming addiction in West Virginia. But at least medical cannabis could be a fresh line of attack and give the state a better chance at restoring our families and rebuilding our communities.
          Sessions’ attack on cannabis patients cynically hurts the very people who so enthusiastically sent this administration to Washington, the ones Democrats and Republicans in West Virginia came together to try to protect.
          So I have some friendly advice for Jeff Sessions from the front lines of the addiction crisis. If he’s interested in fighting a war on drugs, then maybe he should look toward Congress, lobbyists and drug distributors. According to a joint report by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, a former DEA agent says all three played a role in fueling the spread of the opioid crisis.

          Join us on Twitter and Facebook

          Maybe he should find out why pharmaceutical companies thought nothing of shipping 9 million pain pills into Kermit, a tiny town of just 392 people in my congressional district. Maybe he should take a look at the politicians who took big contributions from these same drug makers and then turned the other cheek as the pills flooded in and our towns turned into war zones. Because I can promise you that the true drug problem is not sitting in dispensaries in Colorado.
          I have watched as my home state struggles to reverse the crippling effects of opioid addiction and I will not sit quiet while Sessions threatens our efforts to overcome it. He thinks that cannabis is a gateway drug. I agree. It is a gateway to a life free of opioid addiction.

          Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

          Marissa SafontSessions just made the opioid war harder to win
          read more

          Kushner’s effort to sway Trump on prison reform is smart

          (CNN)Conventional wisdom told us that we should have lost all hope for any federal criminal justice reform after President Donald Trump was elected. His law and order rhetoric as a candidate and his nomination, as President, of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General were alarming.

          Prior to Trump’s nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidency, both political parties had been moving in a positive direction on fixing our broken criminal justice system. In 2015, I co-hosted a Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform with Newt Gingrich, Pat Nolan and Donna Brazile. Speakers ranging from then-Attorney General Eric Holder to conservative Georgia Governor Nathan Deal all agreed that the system was unnecessarily funneling people struggling with addiction, mental illness and poverty into our prisons and jails.
          And over the past several years, a few brave Republican governors and party leaders led the charge in making a three-pronged conservative argument against a criminal justice system that encroaches on individual liberties, wastes financial resources and infringes on Christian values of redemption and mercy.
            The Bipartisan Summit and several other bipartisan efforts spurred intense debate on Capitol Hill — nearly resulting in an overhaul of the federal justice system during the last Congressional session.

              Jeff Sessions’ conservative agenda

            And while a comprehensive criminal justice overhaul fell short, progress was made through the 21st Century CURES Act in a lame-duck compromise. That bill bundled $1 billion in spending to fight the opioid epidemic with $2 billion in funding for Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer research “moonshot” and alternatives to incarceration for people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. It also established training programs for law enforcement officers and prison guards in identifying and effectively responding to individuals with mental illness.
            But the election of Trump seemed to have killed all hope of progress — and introduced the specter of a rapid rollback to the worst days of the ill-considered drug war.
            Within the first months of Trump’s presidency, his administration reversed much of the progress made during President Barack Obama’s tenure. Doubling down on the use of private prisons, rolling back consent decrees and oversight of some of America’s most troubled police departments, and promising to seek the harshest punishments even in the case of low-level drug crimes.
            And Sessions recently rescinded an Obama-era memo to judges discouraging them from incarcerating people for not being able to pay fines and fees, and announced he would give US attorneys discretion on prosecuting marijuana cases in states where the drug had been legalized. Because of these actions, the federal prison population is predicted to increase this year, after a period of steep decline under the Obama administration. Unfortunately, we know communities of color will be disproportionately harmed.
            And yet, Kushner brought conservatives to the White House on Thursday to make the case to Trump himself.
            Kushner’s commitment to this issue seems personal. Having watched his father, Charles Kushner, sentenced to prison, he is likely to have an intimate understanding of how brutal and dehumanizing the criminal justice system can be. Kushner’s Office of American Innovation is tasked with bringing “new thinking and real change” to some of America’s most pressing challenges. There is no shortage of innovative ideas when it comes to fixing our criminal justice system.
            There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of these efforts. The Trump administration zig-zags famously and seems to be at war with itself on this issue. But there’s also some room for hope. Evidence-based policies to reduce prison time while boosting public safety have been championed by leading conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
            The question is how far Kushner can or will go. Some issues like mental health care, prison conditions and re-entry won’t run afoul of Sessions’ hard line. But real sentencing reform might create a showdown inside the administration and within the Republican caucus during what’s shaping up to be a heated midterm election year.
            Reformers on both sides have some reason to be optimistic. The present disaster that is America’s criminal justice system offends the highest values and deepest values of both political parties. Our criminal justice system has grown so out of control that an estimated 70 million Americans have a criminal record — meaning virtually every American has a friend, neighbor or loved one who’s been impacted. And according to a poll by the Charles Koch Institute, even 54% of Trump voters know someone who is or has been incarcerated.
            One area that is bringing all sides together is a campaign led by #cut50 to provide better treatment of women behind bars, thereby reducing the harmful consequences of incarceration on women, children and families.

            Join us on Twitter and Facebook

            Another area where there is agreement is better support and economic opportunity for individuals returning to their communities after incarceration. Both parties agree that public safety is best served when people leaving prison have meaningful opportunities to obtain housing, employment and education.
            An administration that on the one hand wants to roll back progress on medical marijuana can’t be fully trusted to handle the issue of justice reform optimally. But the American people are tired of the Washington, DC food fight and are looking for leadership. And for the millions of people behind bars and their families, any light in the darkness should be encouraged.

            Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

            Marissa SafontKushner’s effort to sway Trump on prison reform is smart
            read more

            Jeff Sessions’ marijuana move will backfire

            (CNN)Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he is rescinding the Cole memo, which reflected the Department of Justice’s relatively passive policy under the Obama administration since August 2013 on enforcement of federal cannabis laws.

            Unlike announcements from the DOJ in past years threatening to ramp up federal enforcement of the cannabis laws, this announcement was met with little more than a yawn by cannabis businesses.
            The harshest reaction came from local and state government officials — in California and in other states — who insisted that they were disappointed, concerned, and surprised by Sessions’ move.
              Now, unlike in prior years, government officials in California and elsewhere are totally aligned with cannabis businesses in resisting the federal government’s threats.
              In fact, the landscape has shifted so dramatically in recent years that some of the harshest critics of Sessions were senators and representatives, many of them prominent Republicans, from states with cannabis programs that generate much-needed medicine and tax revenue. They expressed outrage over this action by Sessions, claiming it belies promises he made to them before being confirmed by the Senate.
              As a result, Sessions has alienated many in Congress, where he can ill afford to lose any friends. Given his recusal — apparently against President Donald Trump’s wishes — from the Russia collusion investigation, he seems to be in a vulnerable spot with the President. Trump has said that he still stands with Sessions. But the attorney general still faces allegations from Democrats, who say that he perjured himself during last year’s confirmation hearings.
              Without protection from Republican allies in the Senate, Sessions’ next appearance on Capitol Hill could be bloody. Cannabis might be the issue that undermines Sessions’ already shaky support.
              Apart from Sessions’ announcement being unpopular, it really doesn’t have any teeth. The medical and legal cannabis industry has grown so big that it would be impossible to make a dent in it — let alone stamp it out through federal enforcement.
              Moreover, Sessions did not actually announce that there would be a crackdown on cannabis businesses, but rather that it would be left to the discretion of the local US attorneys in the various districts to decide how and when to enforce the federal laws. This does not amount to much of a substantive change in policy, which begs the question of why Sessions bothered to make the announcement at all.
              The Obama administration’s policy essentially left it to the individual states to regulate its respective cannabis industries provided those businesses did not engage in activities that threatened federal priorities, like serving as a cover for other illegal activity or violence.

                GOP senator fumes over marijuana memo reversal

              Under the Cole memo, in the past four-plus years, the already robust medical cannabis industry continued to evolve with more than half the states now allowing some form of medical cannabis use and commercial activity, and now eight states including California, Colorado, Washington and Nevada permitting recreational or adult use of recreational cannabis.
              Based on conversations I’ve had with federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, there does not appear to be much of an appetite on the part of federal prosecutors to go after cannabis. And if they do, at the moment their hands are tied, at least when it comes to medical cannabis. Since 2014, the federal budget has prohibited the DOJ from using federal funds to prosecute medical cannabis businesses pursuant to a budget rider championed by US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, a Republican who considers Sessions a “longtime friend.”
              The Sessions’ announcement was likely timed to create anxiety in California, only days after it began issuing permits for both medical and recreational cannabis businesses. California and its attorney general have been somewhat of a thorn in the side of the Trump administration, filing a number of lawsuits challenging various policies, and perhaps most significantly, allowing so-called “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants.

              Join us on Twitter and Facebook

              Although the spotlight seems to be on California, Colorado — a swing state — with a population that is dwarfed by California, has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue from its legalization of cannabis.
              It would be wise for Sessions to remember that cannabis businesses exist in red and purple states, too. Its investors include prominent Trump supporters like Todd Mitchem. Any real enforcement efforts would alienate this administration’s base and be a political risk.
              For all of these reasons, there isn’t much bark to Sessions’ bite. And in fact, it could precipitate a legal battle with California and other states — possibly overturning the authority of the federal government to even regulate legal cannabis businesses, an issue that has yet to be decided by the Supreme Court. That would be the ultimate irony to Sessions’ move and an appropriate epitaph on his fight against cannabis.

              Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

              Marissa SafontJeff Sessions’ marijuana move will backfire
              read more

              Sessions just made the opioid war harder to win

              (CNN)On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the federal policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. While controversial for many reasons, this move is first and foremost a significant step backward in our country’s fight against opioid addiction.

              Maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to come to Logan County, West Virginia, where I grew up. Maybe he needs to visit nearby Huntington, West Virginia, a town of nearly 49,000 that’s been dubbed the overdose capital of America. A town where opioid- and heroin-related crime has spiked to such levels that the National Guard is now backing up local law enforcement efforts.
              Maybe if he were to open the door to a public restroom and find someone overdosed on the floor, as have residents of Huntington and other West Virginia communities, then Sessions would rethink his disastrous decision to bring down the heavy hand of the federal government on states whose citizens and legislatures have opted to legalize medical cannabis.
                Sessions’ decision takes away one of the few effective tools we have for getting people off of opioids, off of heroin, bringing peace back to our streets and making our neighborhoods great again.
                In 2016 alone, drug overdoses killed nearly as many Americans as the total amount who died in the Vietnam War, according to a report from the Police Executive Research Forum.
                As a retired soldier, I know that if any person or nation killed that many Americans, we would pull up our bootstraps and go to war with them. How then can an administration which has rightfully declared opioid addiction a national emergency, strip us of our ability to fight?
                Medical cannabis can save lives in a country where opioids continue to take them. It offers patients an alternative to addictive opioids. It also helps combat withdrawal symptoms and could give those struggling with addiction a way to detox without feeling as though they are dying. It could be an effective way to help those who have fallen prey to addiction to rebuild their lives.
                Last year, as a freshman state senator, I sponsored legislation to legalize medical cannabis in West Virginia with the hopes that it would help our state combat opioid dependence. I’m a Democrat in a legislature where Republicans have a super-majority, but we were able to get this bill passed and signed by the governor in April 2017. This rare show of bipartisanship didn’t happen because we’re all singing Kumbaya and getting along. It happened because the devastation of addiction is so obvious where we live that my colleagues could not in good conscience deny our citizens a chance to escape this scourge.

                  Will new Justice Dept. guidance affect legal pot?

                When our bill was signed into law, I felt hopeful. We still don’t have nearly enough treatment facilities or nearly enough funding to deal with the overwhelming addiction in West Virginia. But at least medical cannabis could be a fresh line of attack and give the state a better chance at restoring our families and rebuilding our communities.
                Sessions’ attack on cannabis patients cynically hurts the very people who so enthusiastically sent this administration to Washington, the ones Democrats and Republicans in West Virginia came together to try to protect.
                So I have some friendly advice for Jeff Sessions from the front lines of the addiction crisis. If he’s interested in fighting a war on drugs, then maybe he should look toward Congress, lobbyists and drug distributors. According to a joint report by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, a former DEA agent says all three played a role in fueling the spread of the opioid crisis.

                Join us on Twitter and Facebook

                Maybe he should find out why pharmaceutical companies thought nothing of shipping 9 million pain pills into Kermit, a tiny town of just 392 people in my congressional district. Maybe he should take a look at the politicians who took big contributions from these same drug makers and then turned the other cheek as the pills flooded in and our towns turned into war zones. Because I can promise you that the true drug problem is not sitting in dispensaries in Colorado.
                I have watched as my home state struggles to reverse the crippling effects of opioid addiction and I will not sit quiet while Sessions threatens our efforts to overcome it. He thinks that cannabis is a gateway drug. I agree. It is a gateway to a life free of opioid addiction.

                Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

                Marissa SafontSessions just made the opioid war harder to win
                read more