President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for a top cabinet post is leaving marijuana advocates uncertain about the future of state legalization laws.
Trump chose Sen. Jeff Sessions, a close campaign adviser, to be his attorney general Friday. Sessions, a staunch opponent of marijuana reform, would have authority over the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and some activists worry his appointment would lead to further raids in states where marijuana is legal. But Trump repeatedly pledged to support state marijuana laws during the campaign, and marijuana activists are hopeful he will keep his word, reports The Washington Post.
Sessions said that lawmakers have failed to spread the message to the public, especially youths, that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
“While the choice certainly isn’t good news for marijuana reform, I’m still hopeful the new administration will realize that any crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “A clear majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana and super-majorities across party lines believe that states should be able to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference.”
Marijuana activists won major ballot victories on Election Day in states across the country. Medical marijuana legalization passed in Florida with 71 percent support and also secured passage in Arkansas and North Dakota. Voters in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine all approved measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Arizona’s initiative is the only recreational marijuana ballot that failed to pass.
The ballot victories mark a major turning point for marijuana reform activists, who won victories in Republican states. Following the results of the election, roughly 20 percent of Americans will have access to legal marijuana. (RELATED: Marijuana May Help Treat Opioid, Alcohol Addictions)
Yet Sessions could deal a blow to state marijuana laws as attorney general. “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger,” Sessions said during the April hearing.
Roughly 60 percent of Americans now support legalization of marijuana. Advocates are circling a petition addressed to Trump, ensuring that he keeps his campaign promise to respect state autonomy on the issue.
“During the campaign the president-elect clearly pledged to respect state marijuana laws, and he should keep his word – both because it’s the right thing to do and because a reversal would be a huge political misstep,” said Angell.
A growing body of research is showing marijuana’s many useful medicinal purposes. Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) studied the relationship between marijuana use and mental health and tested its interaction with different illnesses. Their findings suggest marijuana is a helpful tool for those suffering from addictions to more harmful substances, like prescription painkillers. They also found that marijuana could help those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.
The psychologists from UBC note that research remains limited due to the federal government’s designation of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.
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