We’ve seen some incredible advancements in medical and adult-use cannabis in the United States this year. As we approach the end of 2016, we can proudly say that over half of U.S. states have now legalized cannabis in some form. This past year Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana approved legalizing medical cannabis and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts—joined Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and D.C. in legalizing adult-use cannabis.
According to Dale Sky Jones the overwhelming support shown by voters this year is a strong message that social justice matters in cannabis policy reform. “As cannabis is legalized across America, citizens are saying ‘no’ to unjust tactics to target growers, close dispensaries and incarcerate more people—largely minorities—consuming or possessing cannabis and saying ‘yes’ to regulated and taxed cannabis to be consumed by adults responsibly,” said Jones.
We also saw other advancements: Congress approved veteran access to medical cannabis in states where the plant is legal, the DEA changed its policy to expand the number of DEA-registered cannabis manufacturers to foster more research, multiple studies were published regarding the science of cannabis, presidential candidates weren’t afraid to talk about cannabis on the campaign trail, and new research from Pew Research now shows that 57% of U.S. adults agree that cannabis should be made legal compared to only 32% a decade ago.
As much as we’ve seen and cheered for forward progress, advancement is still hard. Congress did indeed approve access of medical cannabis to veterans, but it is ultimately up to a vet’s VA doctor to recommend medical cannabis and not all states have approved PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a common disorder suffered by many veterans) as a condition to be treated with medical cannabis. And, researchers now have access to better grades of cannabis and the DEA is working to recruit universities to open cannabis cultivation facilities (in addition to the University of Mississippi, which has been growing cannabis for the federal government for 46 years), however, the federal application process is lengthy and complicated.
As concerned as we all are about these cannabis setbacks, we have an immediate concern…one that will make all of our current cannabis concerns moot.
Many of us were still celebrating the November 8th ballot wins for cannabis, when just a mere 10 days later news broke that President-Elect Trump wants to appoint Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General.
Of course, he’s got to be confirmed by Congress yet, but having an “Attorney General Sessions” is a daunting thought. He has been a vocal opponent of legalizing cannabis and has been quoted as saying ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana’ and former colleagues have testified that Sessions thought the Ku Klux Klan was ‘okay until he learned that they smoked marijuana.’
As the Attorney General, Sessions would have the authority to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantle the legal cannabis industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, and begin massive raids on existing medical and adult-use retail stores.
This is just a glimpse of what cannabis could mean under a President Trump administration.
What Can You Do?
Within days of Trump’s announcement DCMJ, the Washington D.C. advocacy group that was instrumental in legalizing cannabis in D.C., took a group of volunteers to Sessions office on Capitol Hill. While they didn’t talk with Senator Sessions directly and the staff members made it clear that they don’t make decisions for the Senator, the group showed up to show their concern. You may not be able to go to Washington, D.C. to protest the confirmation of Sessions, but there are options for you to consider.
Write Your State Senators: Write to your state representatives in the U.S. Senate. They are taxed with confirming all of the president elect’s nominees. The list of U.S. Senators and their contacts will change as of January 3, 2017, which is when the 115th Congress is sworn in. Nominees cannot be confirmed until the new president is sworn in on January 20, 2017. If you know your Senator was re-elected, start writing to him or her now!
Support NORML*: Another option, or an additional option, is to support the efforts of NORML to fight back, to send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state cannabis programs and we want to move towards de-scheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states. Contribute Now!
You could also connect with your closest state NORML Chapter to learn about or become involved in preparing an official statement to your State Senators.
As Dale Sky Jones has been known to say, no one said advocating for cannabis would be easy. We must stay the course. Now more than ever.
*NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.