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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
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    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.

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      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
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