Cannabis Advancements in Danger Under President-Elect Trump’s Attorney General Nominee Sessions; What You Can Do Today

Marijuana and criminallity

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.

The Lancet Report: War on Drugs is Epic Public Health and Human Rights Failure

There is evidence that drug law enforcement has been applied in a discriminatory way against racial and ethnic minorities and women, and has undermined human rights.

There is evidence that drug law enforcement has been applied in a discriminatory way against racial and ethnic minorities and women, and has undermined human rights.

Sometimes it seems that cannabis advocates take one step forward only to face two steps backwards. The Lancet Report goes in the ‘step forward’ category.

Yesterday, the published results of a major study on drugs led by The Lancet, one of the world’s most respected medical journals, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health were released. The results show that the ‘War on Drugs’ approach has harmed public health and human rights and speak specifically to:

  1. Drug laws intended to protect have contributed to lethal violence, disease transmission, discrimination, forced displacement and undermined people’s right to health
  2. Non-violent minor drug offences should be decriminalized and health and social services for drug users strengthened

Timing of the report is significant.

The United Nations plans to hold a General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in New York April 19th to 21st, which will be the first such meeting on drugs since 1998. The theme of that first UNGASS was ‘A Drug-Free World —We Can Do It!’ and the U.N. endorsed drug-control policies with the goal of prohibiting all use: possession, production, and trafficking of illicit drugs, which were deemed a threat to the health and well being of all people.

Attitudes on drug policy have changed over the last 18 years since those goals were put in place. Cannabis has been legalized in some form in 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia as well as in Uruguary.  Many countries have or are considering changing laws related to cannabis.

“Cannabis policy reform is about human rights, and always has been,” said Oaksterdam University’s Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones. “Though cannabis use is fairly equal among blacks and whites, people of color are at least 4 times more likely to be arrested for possession.”

“What’s brilliant about The Lancet report is the review of global evidence on the health impacts of drug policy that we suspected all along,” said Jones.

“Cannabis policy reform is about human rights, and always has been. Though cannabis use is fairly equal among blacks and whites, people of color are at least 4 times more likely to be arrested for possession.”

Oaksterdam University’s Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones

According to The Lancet research, the biggest contribution to higher rates of infection among drug users is the excessive use of incarceration and the systematic exclusion of people who use drugs from HIV and hepatitis C prevention, treatment and harm reduction, whether in the community or in prison. In addition, there is evidence that drug law enforcement has been applied in a discriminatory way against racial and ethnic minorities and women, and has undermined human rights.

“The idea of reducing harm is central to public policy in so many areas from tobacco and alcohol regulation to food or traffic safety,” says Commissioner Dr Joanne Csete, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, US, “but when it comes to drugs, standard public health and scientific approaches have been rejected. Worse still, by dismissing extensive evidence of the health and human rights harms of drug policies, countries are neglecting their legal responsibilities to their citizens. Decriminalization of non-violent minor drug offenses is a first and urgent step in a longer process of fundamentally re-thinking and re-orienting drug policies at a national and international level. As long as prohibition continues, parallel criminal markets, violence and repression will continue.”

“Cannabis advocacy occurs at multiple levels,” said Jones. “We see political leaders, movie stars, and regular people pushing cannabis reform forward. The Lancet group has taken a huge step forward for human rights. Now, the ball in the United Nations’ court.”

The basic recommendations contained in the report (see full report):

  1. Decriminalize minor, non-violent drug offenses—use, possession, and petty sale—and strengthen health and social-sector alternatives to criminal sanctions.
  2. Reduce the violence and other harms of drug policing.
  3. Ensure easy access to harm-reduction services for all who need them as a part of responding to drugs.
  4. Prioritize people who use drugs in treatment for HIV, HCV infection, and tuberculosis, and ensure that services are adequate to enable access for all who need care.
  5. Ensure access to controlled drugs.
  6. Reduce the negative impact of drug policy and law on women and their families.
  7. Efforts to address drug-crop production need to take health into account.
  8. A more diverse donor base is needed to fund the best new science on drug-policy experiences in a non-ideological way.
  9. U.N. governance of drug policy should be improved.
  10. Health, development and human rights indicators should be included in metrics to judge success of drug policy.
  11. Move gradually toward regulated drug markets and apply the scientific method to their assessment.