Sessions wants flexibility to prosecute state medical marijuana programs

Sessions wants flexibility to prosecute state medical marijuana programs

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DES MOINES — The federal government’s top attorney wants the freedom to prosecute states — such as Iowa — with medical marijuana programs, according to a letter made public last week. But Iowa officials insist the state’s newly expanded program, which now includes the opportunity for two businesses to grow and sell medical cannabis, will remain safe from federal scrutiny. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 1 wrote a letter to congressional leaders opposing a mechanism in the federal budget that prohibits the Department of Justice from using its resources to prosecute states that establish medical marijuana laws. The provision was written into the budget when President Barack Obama’s Justice Department began cracking down on medical marijuana vendors; originally Obama said the department would not prosecute vendors and patients who adhere to state law. Marijuana is not recognized by the federal government as a medicinal plant, so medical marijuana programs run afoul of federal drug control laws. A total of 29 states have medical marijuana laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Iowa’s program was introduced in 2014 and had a very narrow focus; it allowed only for the possession and use of physician-prescribed cannabidiol for treatment of epileptic seizures. This year, state lawmakers and former Gov. Terry Branstad approved an expansion of the program, adding more covered ailments, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDs and Parkinson’s disease, and legalizing the growth and sale of medical cannabis in Iowa. Sessions’ letter was addressed to Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. It was dated May 1 and published last week by the website MassRoots.com and later verified by The Washington Post. “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular […]

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