A New War on Drugs?

Departments - From the Editor

June 29, 2017

The cannabis industry breathed a sigh of relief on May 5 when President Trump signed the current federal budget bill, which included an extension of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment’s coverage—forbidding the use of federally appropriated funds to interfere with state-authorized medical marijuana programs—through September.

That sigh turned into a gasp mid-June as Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions called on congressional leaders to reconsider their support of the amendment. Sessions wrote in a letter to party leaders: “I write to renew the Department of Justice’s [DOJ] opposition to the inclusion of language in any appropriations legislation that would prohibit the use of [DOJ] funds or in any way inhibit its authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).”

Session’s letter, not surprisingly, made clear his anti-marijuana stance, as he blurred the line between licensed and illegal businesses, and suggested state-legal cannabis businesses (and their owners) are “causing harm” in their communities.

Fortunately, some state legislators are putting up early fights. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf immediately wrote a letter to the AG, saying: “Given the bipartisan and medical consensus for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania and many other states, I am disturbed to know that you are actively pursuing a change in federal law to go after medical marijuana suppliers. We do not need the federal government getting in the way of Pennsylvania’s right to deliver [those who are suffering] relief through our new medical marijuana program.” Gov. Wolf also promised legal action if Sessions interfered with those rights.

Adult-use legalization has been in question as well, with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying at a press briefing earlier this year, “... I believe that [the Department of Justice is] going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.”

To put up their own fight against that prospect, Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Earl Blumenauer, Don Young and Jared Polis launched a bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus to try to “do everything we can to try to keep the momentum going that we’ve established ...,” said Rohrabacher in a press briefing.

Mason Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project’s director of communications, responded to Spicer’s comments in a statement, saying, “It is hard to imagine why anyone would want marijuana to be produced and sold by cartels and criminals rather than tightly regulated, taxpaying businesses.”

In an interview with CBT, Tvert added he believes that the end of recreational marijuana is not near. He also suggested cannabis business owners contact their representatives to urge them to support legislation that would resolve the state-federal conflict, including the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017.

So one thing is clear: AG Sessions and any other White House efforts to oppose state-legal marijuana laws are facing a momentous fight from Congress, the public and the cannabis industry.