When Jeff Sessions testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 18, cannabis activists across the nation waited with bated breath to see if the topic of marijuana would come up. When it did, Attorney General Jeff Sessions surprised us all.
Rather than his normal anti-pot rhetoric, Sessions said he wants to see “more competition” among medical cannabis growers who are growing for research purposes. After which, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah (R), who is opposed to broad legalization, asked to “clarify” the DOJ’s position on providing these researchers with medical grade cannabis.
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Sessions reiterated that he thought that competition was healthy, though he wasn’t sure that the given number of 26 needed to be in effect. Hatch in turn reiterated that he is not for the broad legalization of cannabis, but saw the logic in researching both the medical benefits and potential pitfalls of the plant.
Even the DEA last year said that they planned on increasing the supply of medical cannabis to researchers. Prior to that, the only researchable weed came from a facility at the University of Mississippi, but patients and advocates constantly complained about quality. The new variety of cannabis flowers should provide more comprehensive results.
Sessions did also say that he wants to limit the expansion and that he’d prefer the Justice Department didn’t approve all 26 applications. He also raised questions about how much it all was going to cost the DEA to observe operations.
“Each one of those has to be supervised by the DEA, and I have raised questions about how many and let’s be sure we’re doing this in the right way because it costs a lot of money to supervise these,” Sessions said.
Both medical and recreational marijuana are still illegal at the federal level with their Schedule I status, but that hasn’t stopped 29 states and the District of Columbia to pass some form of medical cannabis legislation, with overarching positive results ranging from wellness to monetary benefits.
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Medical marijuana is currently protected from the DOJ by the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prevents federal crackdowns on medical states that comply. However, it’s unclear that the amendment will continue to stand and renew after its initial expiration and it’s also unclear if Sessions has plans to come down on recreational. Time will tell, but for now, Sessions’ first pretty positive marijuana statement deserves at least raised, hopeful eyebrows.