Medical marijuana supporters worry in light of Sessions' guidance

...

Posted: Jan 7, 2018 8:08 AM
Updated: Jan 7, 2018 8:08 AM

January 19 is when more than 1.2 million patients legally using medical marijuana will be watching Congress with great concern.

That's when the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment will expire. The amendment essentially stops the Justice Department from spending any federal dollars on prosecuting cannabis-related activities if those activities are allowed under state medical marijuana laws.

Money is restricted when it comes to federal enforcement against medical marijuana, but that law is about to expire

Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded policy restricting federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where it was legal

The amendment was extended in the spending bill in December, but unless Congress slips it into another federal spending bill and can pass it before the law expires, the legislative action that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions took Thursday may have a real impact on people who sell or buy medical marijuana.

Sessions rescinded three memos that relate to federal law enforcement of marijuana laws, the last of which, popularly known as the Cole memo, was 2013 guidance that essentially told the government to back off federal prosecutions of people operating within state marijuana laws.

In the majority of states -- 29 -- medical marijuana is legal to varying degrees, and eight states allow recreational sales.

Raids of medical marijuana establishments continued after the memos went out, but the amendment put an end to those raids and to other federal efforts to shut down licensed medical dispensaries.

In rescinding the three memos Thursday, Sessions advised prosecutors to "follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions." He viewed "previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement (as) unnecessary."

Sessions' memo didn't specifically mention prosecuting anyone involved with medical marijuana, but if the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment expires, nothing will stop them, experts said. And Sessions sent a letter to congressional leaders in May arguing against the continued restriction of Justice Department funds for prosecutions, suggesting that such a policy was "unwise," "particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic." That letter concluded that marijuana "has significant negative health effects."

Congress has maintained that marijuana is a dangerous drug. The DEA has kept it as a Schedule I controlled substance, putting it in the same category as LSD and heroin, with "no current acceptable medical use." Medical marijuana and CBD oil, which comes from hemp but on the molecular level is the same as CBD from marijuana, are both in this category.

"I knew the risk. I knew we were breaking the federal law when I started giving it to my daughter Charlotte, but the risk was worth it because it was a matter of life or death," said Paige Figi of Colorado, whose daughter has a rare form of epilepsy that gives her hundreds of seizures a week that at one point kept her from being able to walk, talk or eat. Charlotte started using CBD oil when she was 5, and it transformed her life.

"She's 11 now, and she's doing great and running around," Figi said. "This is usually fatal, and she is doing awesome, and for years and years, this is all she has had to take."

Figi said she wasn't surprised by the Sessions move -- "nothing surprises me anymore" -- but she hopes it may motivate Congress to enact legislation that would at least deschedule CBD, meaning people could use it without breaking federal law. A bill to that affect is under consideration in the Senate.

Though the scientific research on marijuana is still considered limited, users say it helps with chronic pain and sleep problems, among other health benefits. Some studies have shown that it helps with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Research by Hans Breiter, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, has showed some negative consequences of the drug. Long-term use can negatively impact memory and brain development, particularly in younger users. But he too wants more decriminalization, not less.

Breiter, who describes himself as conservative, said he would like to remind Sessions that "there is much more consistency in the scientific literature of findings about the detrimental effects of alcohol, which is legal within a strong regulatory framework." He thinks there needs to be more research on the topic and a more logical legal framework applied to the drug.

Some states are pushing back against Sessions' latest guidance, including Colorado and Washington, where medical and recreational marijuana are allowed. Both have said they will continue to defend their laws in court.

In Michigan, which only began accepting applications for medical marijuana licenses in December, it's business as usual despite the Sessions memo. Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said it will "continue to move forward in accepting and processing applications for state operating licenses," according to a statement from David Hamms, the department's public information officer.

Medical marijuana dispensaries have been calling Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit working to ensure safe and legal access to marijuana for therapeutic uses and research, for help in figuring out what their next steps will be.

Steph Sherer, the organization's executive director, said she had nearly deleted the program it offered to guide dispensaries about raids as the Obama administration relaxed its rules. Now, she's glad she didn't, and she said dispensaries should be prepared for anything.

"I'm very nervous," she said. The Drug Enforcement Administration "is run out of Washington, and while they are supposed to serve states' attorneys general, the DEA doesn't need their permission to do anything in those districts."

Polls have shown that the greater majority of Americans do favor medical marijuana. "If we can stay focused, maybe the silver lining is, Congress remembers how important this amendment is and that we need Congress to come up with a permanent solution," Sherer said.

West Lafayette
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Kokomo
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Rensselaer
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 68°
Fowler
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Williamsport
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 71°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 68°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 74°
Delphi
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 71°
Monticello
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 71°
Logansport
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 46387

Reported Deaths: 2662
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11434680
Lake4985241
Elkhart313343
Allen2695117
St. Joseph185766
Cass16369
Hamilton1502100
Hendricks1371100
Johnson1244118
Porter69037
Tippecanoe6598
Madison64363
Clark62744
Bartholomew58044
Howard55057
LaPorte54125
Kosciusko5003
LaGrange4646
Jackson4583
Vanderburgh4576
Noble45128
Delaware42949
Boone42743
Hancock42535
Marshall4183
Shelby41825
Floyd37044
Morgan32331
Montgomery29020
Grant28726
Clinton2812
Monroe26328
Dubois2616
White25910
Decatur24732
Henry23615
Lawrence23624
Vigo2278
Harrison20822
Warrick20729
Dearborn20622
Greene18432
Miami1802
Jennings16911
Putnam1658
DeKalb1594
Scott1557
Daviess13916
Orange13323
Wayne1296
Franklin1248
Steuben1242
Perry1239
Ripley1148
Jasper1132
Carroll1092
Wabash1092
Fayette967
Newton9610
Whitley814
Randolph774
Starke773
Huntington702
Wells681
Jay670
Fulton661
Jefferson661
Washington651
Knox630
Pulaski621
Clay594
Rush563
Benton480
Adams471
Gibson462
Owen451
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey360
Spencer331
Tipton301
Crawford290
Fountain292
Switzerland260
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike80
Unassigned0193

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events