On Thursday, January 4, 2018, Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy which has helped pave a road towards states legalizing marijuana. Sessions revoked the Cole Memo only days after a recreational marijuana market opened up in California, throwing the state for a loop.
Sessions has been the 84th Attorney General of the United States since 2017. He previously served as the United States Senator from Alabama, nominated by Donald Trump, from 1997 to 2017.
On April 5, 2016 a Senate drug hearing is held. As U.S. Attorney Benjamin B, Wagner begins to talk about the opioid and heroin issues, a crisis that has made opioid overdose the leading cause of death in Americans under 50, Sessions completely steam rolls over the topic to talk about the problem of marijuana, saying “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
In Colorado the legalization of recreational use of marijuana has actually helped saved lives. Opioid-related deaths decreased more than six percent in two years. Marijuana helps decreases the same pains that opiates do, and now with the option between the two, patients are opting for marijuana.
The Cole Memo was released under the presidency of Barack Obama by the United States Department of Justice. In 2013 the Department of Justice announced an update in the federal marijuana enforcement policy in which legalized, under state law, the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Also provided for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale. The federal government originally relied on local and state authorities to address cannabis activity through enforcement of their own laws and this policy continues that.
Many states have legalized the use of medical marijuana in some form and others have legalized the recreational use. As for California, it has always been close behind Colorado and Washington in the eventual legalization of marijuana. Along with a handful of states, California decriminalized cannabis in 1973. This means the penalties in relation to certain acts were lessened. Such as first time possession of small amounts are marijuana, there would be no arrest, prison time, or criminal record. 1996 is when California legalized medical marijuana and then about eight years later, 2004, Measure Z passed, which made adult cannabis offenses the lowest possible priority for law enforcement.
The progress towards the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana has now been halted, although not without resistance. Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Executive Lori Ajax, two of California’s state leaders, gave statements saying they will defend Proposition 64. This proposition helped lead California to where it is today. It allowed adults 21 and over to possess marijuana for recreational use. It was voted on in 2016 with 57.13% voting yes and 42.87% voting no. It became effective on November 9, 2016, which allowed people to sell and grow cannabis for personal use and on January 1, 2018, the proposition legalized the taxation of marijuana.
Emily Lahey, a sophomore, got the chance to give me her opinion on the legalization of marijuana. She says that she does not have a strong opinion on the matter, but she is not against it, “…especially since alcohol is legal. Whether it is medical or recreational, it does not really concern me.” The legalization of weed will have negative effects and positive either way, so all a person can do is try to try to make the most positive impact. As Emily says “I think if marijuana was truly legalized it would lead to a lot more underage smoking, but if it was not so many people would get in trouble for smoking. No one wins.” She adds on saying that fewer people would go to jail for marijuana possession. Medical marijuana can be used treat glaucoma, epileptic seizures, stop cancer from spreading, decrease anxiety, and eases other pains. Emily told me, “My dad used marijuana for medical uses and I am glad he used it. It prevented pain on his part.”
Erin Anderson, a senior, told me about her point on medical marijuana. “I believe legalizing marijuana would have a positive impact, making it so the people who are already using it have access to safe weed, in dispensaries, instead of having to play their cards with a dealer. Since so many people ignore the law and smoke already, outlawing it would have little impact.” It helps that the area we are in is very weed friendly, already exposing us to it and we see the positive impacts it has, such as its medical uses. Erin tells me she has a friend who has cancer, and because of his “perpetual pain” from chemo, he smokes marijuana which lessens the pain. She tells me that fewer people would be imprisoned if it were legal, which would just be a good thing from many points of views. For someone’s freedom and their family and themselves happiness. Unlike Emily who thinks the age restriction for marijuana should be 21, Erin says the age should be 18 and no limit for those who need it for medical purposes.
By Sarah Jane Murphy
by Gage Skidmore
Higdon, James, et al. “Jeff Sessions Isn’t Giving up on Weed. He’s Doubling Down.” POLITICO Magazine, 16 Dec. 2017, www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/16/jeff-sessions-marijuana-216109.
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