Donald Trump was not elected president to renew crackdowns on marijuana in states that have legalized it for medicinal or recreational purposes.
Last week, it was revealed that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a private letter to congressional leaders dated May 1 asking them to lift the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment, which prevents the Justice Department from meddling with state medical marijuana laws.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote, citing no evidence linking medical marijuana to the “historic drug epidemic” or violent crime increases.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, first enacted in 2014, is an important barrier to unnecessary federal intrusion in states which have considered and enacted laws permitting, by varying degrees, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
While marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, Congress should retain the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to protect the right of states to make their own choices.
The majority of states, and the District of Columbia, now have laws on the books permitting marijuana for medicinal purposes. As an April Quinnipiac poll found, 73 percent of Americans oppose federal intervention in states which have legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes. For the Trump administration to intervene now would not only contradict campaign statements by Trump himself favoring states’ rights on marijuana policy, but also needlessly flout the wishes of most Americans.
But clearly a legislative solution is needed beyond simply restricting the ability of the Justice Department to enforce laws against medical marijuana.
One such proposal was reintroduced last week by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Called the CARERS Act, the bill would protect the possession, production and distribution of medical marijuana so long as individuals and businesses are in compliance with state laws permitting such activity. It would also allow Veterans Affairs physicians to prescribe medical marijuana, and remove federal restrictions on cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating chemical in marijuana which can treat problems like epilepsy.
The idea of depriving individuals suffering from ailments like cancer of safe access to medical marijuana is a cruel one that does nothing to make anyone safer.
Another proposal to consider is the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., which would remove marijuana from the confines of the federal Controlled Substances Act, leaving to the states the autonomy to make their own choices, as with alcohol and tobacco. This would permanently resolve the conflict between state and federal law on medical and recreational marijuana.
For now, Congress should retain the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment and work toward shifting greater power over marijuana policy to the states.
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