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Jeff Sessions Finally Admits There Are Medical Benefits To Cannabis

By Roger Malespin  photo/istock.com/tvirbickis 

There has been a lot of positive news for the legal cannabis industry over the past couple of months - John Boehner joining Acreage Holdings, USDA approving a cannabis based drug for the first time - but when the biggest marijuana opponent in the country shows a glimmer of changing his tune, it is at least symbolically the biggest news of all. While being questioned before the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions conceded that “there may well be some benefits to medical marijuana”. The hearing was to review the Fiscal Year 2019 funding request and budget justification for the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Anyone familiar with cannabis or politics knows that Sessions has made opposition to any form of legalized cannabis a cornerstone of his platform. He has long been a proponent of keeping marijuana classified as a schedule 1 drug at the federal level. However, with the recent slew of increasingly powerful politicians putting weight behind cannabis as a counter to the opioid epidemic gripping the country, as well as Sessions failing to find significant support after rolling back the Obama-era Cole Memorandum, the Attorney General has been forced to concede to the will of the American People.
Regarding the request that the federal government license more entities to grow legal marijuana for research, Sessions said,  “We are moving forward and we will add fairly soon, I believe, the paperwork and reviews will be completed and we will add additional suppliers of marijuana under the controlled circumstances.” One of the many problems facing the cannabis industry because of its federal drug classification is that federal money cannot go to research, medical or otherwise, towards cannabis. 

While this is very refreshing to hear, readers should be aware that this is a symbolic victory for the time being. At no point in the hearing did Sessions give details about a potential timeline for when these federally funded suppliers would be established. Additionally, he is still clearly skeptical about declassification when he said that while the justice department will focus on cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl, marijuana cases will be pursued if they "are a big deal and illegal acting, and violating federal law, our agents may work that case."  

Trying to discern the real happenings of Sessions’ latest hearing is complicated. On one hand, Sessions cannot afford to outright deny the growing calls for medical marijuana reform any longer without losing credibility, and that’s a good thing. On the other, he is only forced to admit what he did in public on a surface level - he can, and likely did, just say that to save face and immediately return to working against decriminalization off camera.

While it’s a good sign that the will of the people is reaching cannabis’ staunchest critic, advocates must remember that the real change will come from the upcoming midterm elections. Voting in democratic congressmen and women who support federal funding for cannabis research is the best way for average people to fight for declassification and what may be our best chance to combat opioid abuse