Sessions Reluctantly Relents On Medical Marijuana Research

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has finally admitted that medical cannabis "may have some benefits” and that a "states-rights" approach could bring "good civil rights reasons for decriminalizing and pursuing a federalist approach around this."

This is Sessions’ first public statement since the April 13th states' rights agreement between President Trump and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner to let states regulate cannabis as they see fit.

Since taking the job, Sessions has been openly hostile to the cannabis industry, going to far as to write a letter to lawmakers asking them to ditch the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment and trashing the Cole Memo,

"We have very few, virtually zero small marijuana cases," Sessions said in an April 25th testimony before the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science funding subcommittee. "People are dying in massive amounts" from drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine, the AG admitted to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski. In his previous statements about cartels and drug dealers, Sessions often would mention marijuana when discussing the "hard drug" problem.

Dr. Lloyd Covens at West420 Newsweekly’s told PotNetwork in an email, “His theories on the dangers of marijuana and it leading to hard drug use are now inoperable.”

"Science is very important to us. There may be some benefits from medical marijuana," said Sessions. But he added his opinion that the opioid overdose reductions seen in legal states are likely to be isolated cases, which "won't be sustained over the long haul."

Currently, under federal law, the University of Mississippi is the only institution legally allowed to grow cannabis for research purposes. However, there are currently 26 or more applications in at the DEA to do so. Sessions promised senators that approval for some of those applicants would be forthcoming and said he would direct the DEA to finalize "paperwork and reviews" which will lead to some of the 26 to be approved. And he added that he would do this "fairly soon."

Sessions Reprimanded in Letter From Dr. Gupta

Earlier in the week, Sessions received a sharply-worded letter from CNN medical director Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the potential for opioid-abuse reduction with the help of MMJ. Gupta is hosting "Weed 4: Pills to Pot," his fourth MMJ documentary debuting on CNN, Sun., April 29th. Dr. Gupta asked the AG to consider visiting any of the opioid/pain programs being offered by leading cannabis researchers.

His letter stated in part,

"Mr. Sessions, Dr. Mark Wallace has invited you to spend a day seeing these patients in his San Diego clinic and witness their outcomes for yourself. Dr. Dustin Sulak could do the same for you in Portland, Maine, as could Dr. Sue Sisley in Phoenix. Staci Gruber in Boston could show you the brain scans of those who tried cannabis for the first time and were then able to quit opioids. Dr. Julie Holland in New York City could walk you through the latest research. All over the country, you will find the scientists who write the books and papers, advance the science and grow our collective knowledge. These are the women and men to whom you should listen. They are the ones, free of rhetoric and conjecture, full of facts and truth, who are our best chance at halting the deadly opioid epidemic."

Dr. Gupta was widely lauded for his 2014 report on Charlotte Figi, a child fighting intractable epilepsy.  

Hopes Are the Highest They’ve Ever Been

In addition to the new support of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for marijuana legalization, long-time cannabis champion Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) remained optimistic that momentum for full cannabis liberalization was rolling fast.     

“I think the next Congress will finish the job of reform, and clean it up,” he told Politco.com, adding, “We’ve got the votes in the House and the Senate, and there will be a huge shake-up in the next Congress.”

If Democrats take over the House after November, Blumenauer pointed to likely potential for new chairs being all pro-marijuana, including Jerry Nadler in Judiciary, Frank Pallone in Commerce, and Jim McGovern in Rules. “These are our friends with good records,” he said.

“I think this Congress—if the Republican leadership would not stifle this bipartisan consensus—if they’d just allow the vote, it would pass."   - Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Dr. Covens also pointed out that it’s important to note that, given the potential that a Pence administration could spell doom, Trump must survive his current scandals long enough to sign any new bill. Vice President Pence—who would take over in Trump’s absence—is a vocal opponent of cannabis legalization.

Underscoring the big shift in cannabis support, the conservative San Diego Union-Tribune wrote an editorial calling for the end of Schedule I prohibition.

"But if Sessions makes a decision Trump likes—say, hamstringing special counsel Robert Mueller—would his reward be another sharp swing, one back toward pot paranoia? That would also not be a surprise. Nevertheless, state leaders should presume this is settled and seek federal cooperation in giving the marijuana industry access to banking services. Now that the president has cut Sessions off at the knees, Justice Department officials may be receptive," wrote the Southern California daily.

Currently, a multi-pronged and comprehensive federal fix is being drafted by Gardner, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo).

Michigan To Vote On MMJ In November

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan State Board of Canvassers ruled that a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational has gotten enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

"The people of Michigan deserve this. They earned it," said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML. "We've faced many trials and tribulations. We've had so many stop and go signs from the federal government. That's why states have to take the reins on the issue and really be the crucibles of democracy that they've always been intended to be."

Medical Marijuana Bill Advances In Missouri

A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Missouri has received initial House approval to advance.

If signed into law, the bill will allow those over the age of 18 who are dying of a terminal disease to access smokeless medical marijuana. Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and a variety of other conditions are also included in the list of qualifying conditions, according to Leafly’s report.

The bill needs to be voted on again before it heads to the Senate.

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