Medical Marijuana Ban Could Be Smuggled Into Government Shutdown Bill

Derek Hunter Contributor
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You’d think with all the drama happening within the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions would have such a full plate dealing with personnel issues, illegal immigration, sanctuary cities, gang violence, and the opioid crisis that he wouldn’t have time to fight for the ability to prosecute states over medical marijuana. Well, if you assumed that, you’d be wrong.

As happens every time there is the threat of a government shutdown, and there is yet another one looming this Friday, there’s a mad scramble to include or exclude things in the omnibus spending package that ends up being rammed through Congress – special projects for districts of various members, sweeteners to get enough votes for passage, etc. Omnibus bills are notorious for being packed with wish list items because they are large and dubbed must-pass legislation.

But it’s not just members of Congress who see these as an opportunity to check items off their wish list. Government departments try to take advantage of them as well. That’s where the Justice Department enters the discussion.

Under current law, the Justice Department is forbidden from spending any money prosecuting medical marijuana growers or distributors in states that have legalized it for sick residents. The provision that prevents this, called a rider, has been in place since 2014 and was written by a Republican, Dana Rohrabacher, and a Democrat, Sam Farr (who has since retired), both from California, and passed with bipartisan support. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working hard to undo this, to have the rider removed in the omnibus.

Whatever you think of recreational marijuana use, when it comes to medical marijuana, especially for the terminally ill and people suffering chronic pain, well, it should be “game on.” If something can make the life of someone going through absolute hell a little better, even if only for a while, they should be free to do it. The same goes for the “right to try,” the idea that terminally ill patients should be free try experimental drugs not yet approved by the FDA in the hope they could extend or save their lives.

Frankly, the government should have better things to do than worry about how seriously ill Americans treat their conditions. And the Attorney General certainly does have bigger fires to tend to.

While federal action is required for the “right to try,” since the Food and Drug Administration approves prescription drugs for use in the whole country, the idea of federalism should be in play when it comes to medical marijuana.

Some states have been choosing to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana for some time now, others have not. Whatever the case, states should have that right. And the Attorney General should respect it.

Having just gone through it, I can assure you that watching someone you love suffer or die is simply the worst thing imaginable, you’d do anything to give that person one more good day or even an hour, or a minute. If marijuana can provide that, and residents of a state want it, the concept of federalism allows for it.

But on the issue of pot, AG Jeff Sessions has other ideas.

He’s not alone. Previous Attorneys General have all kept marijuana listed as a schedule 1 narcotic, the same classification as cocaine and heroin. Whatever you think of pot, it is not those.

Sessions has made marijuana, no matter the use, a cause. As such, he’s unlikely to call off the dogs for the ill. Congress should leave in place the rider blocking the DOJ from unleashing its fury on states that have decided to give some hope or relief to those suffering. The states know best what their citizens want, and who knows, maybe some breakthrough will come from it?

Whatever the case, the Attorney General has better things to do with his time, or at least should. Resources are not unlimited, priorities need to be chosen, and whether or not someone suffering is able to use “weed” to alleviate some of that suffering for a time should be allowed to go forward.

The looming government shutdown should not be the vehicle through which Sessions is allowed to advance his personal battle against treatments and choices he doesn’t like. On the campaign trail, President Trump was unambiguous in his support for medical marijuana, and a new poll released Monday “found 77 percent of likely 2018 voters had a favorable opinion of medical marijuana..” And since the Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the President, the rider should remain in place and the AG Sessions should focus on cleaning up his own house. It’s not like he doesn’t have anything better to do.

Derek Hunter is a Daily Caller contributor.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.