Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking congressional leaders to undo federal medical marijuana protections that have been in place since 2014, the Washington Post reports. The protections, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, bar the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent certain states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In a letter dated in May, Sessions argued that the amendment would “inhibit [the Justice Department’s] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.” He added that 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’s citing of a “historic drug epidemic” to justify a crackdown on medical marijuana is at odds with what researchers know about current drug use and abuse.
The epidemic Sessions cites involves deadly opiate drugs, not marijuana. A growing body of research acknowledged by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has shown that opiate deaths and overdoses actually decrease in states with medical marijuana laws on the books. That research strongly suggests that cracking down on medical marijuana laws, as Sessions requested, could perversely make the opiate epidemic even worse. John Hudak of the Brookings Institution characterized Sessions’ arguments as a “scare tactic” that “could appeal to rank-and-file members or to committee chairs in Congress.”