Jeff Sessions’ Anti-Cannabis Crusade and Oregon’s Pushback

Jeff Sessions’ Anti-Cannabis Crusade and Oregon’s Pushback
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Portland Mercury

November 4, 2014 was an historic day for cannabis supporters as Measure 91 – or the Oregon Legalized cannabis Initiative – was passed in a statewide vote. Not only did this statute mark a big day for medicine and cannabis, it legalized the recreational use of cannabis to any adult in Oregon over the age of 21.

However, cannabis still has many outspoken enemies. Even with all the scandal surrounding Donald Trump and his appointees, a quick Google search of Jeff Sessions’ name brings you results about his crusade against cannabis.

Cannabis in Oregon – Vast Volumes

The State of Oregon produces such high yields of cannabis that a state senator once deemed the state the “Saudia Arabia of marijuana.” Meaning, the state has more than it consumes itself, and a large share of Oregon’s marijuana crop is being set out of state. Sam Chapman, cofounder of New Economy Consulting, a Portland consulting firm specializing in the marijuana industry, told VICE News, “I’d guess 80 percent of all product in Oregon is, unfortunately, leaving the state.”

Rules and Laws

Of course, Oregon doesn’t just have cannabis allowed to anyone who wants it. Much like tobacco products and alcohol, there are restrictions that control who can have cannabis and what can and can’t be done with it.

In Oregon, recreational cannabis is legal so long as the individual in question is 21 years of age or older (or is a medical card holder). The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) regulates the sale of cannabis to ensure that this law is followed to the letter. Adults meeting the age requirements set forth can possess up to 8 ounces of dried cannabis and up to four plants, allowing them to grow their own as well, although they can’t sell it individually.

According to the OLCC, applications for 1,907 marijuana-related businesses were submitted in 2016, outstripping estimates by more than 50 percent.

Jeff Sessions and the Arguments Against cannabis

There is plenty to be said about the good that cannabis can do when it is deregulated. However, to be fair, you need to assess the arguments against the deregulation of cannabis as well.

When the law passed in Oregon, dissenters argued that there were no restrictions to protect children from the idea of cannabis and that it is hard to assess how much cannabis someone has on hand, especially when it comes to what they have in their home.

Sessions himself argued to Congress recently on why he should be able to prosecute dispensaries. Among his arguments, his strongest points included that deregulation is opening Americans up to the threat of increased violent crime and “extremely dangerous” drug trafficking. This argument was later sent directly to the governor of Oregon.

Those In Favor of Deregulation

However, many will note that there are things that Sessions’ blatantly disregards when it comes to cannabis deregulation. Just to name a few, the medical benefits of cannabis and the ability to research this and even the revenue increase that cannabis sale brings.

Arguments in rebuttal of Oregon’s “no” voters directly contrast some of their concerns as well. For one, those in favor argued that without any sort of regulation on the sale of cannabis, protecting children is nearly impossible. They directly cited that if you were to ask any high schooler or middle schooler which is easier to get, a six-pack of beer or a bag of weed, and most will answer the latter.

After all, they can already find weed on every street corner, what is stopping them from purchasing it when they find a seller?

Oregon’s Revenue with the Sale of cannabis

In the past year alone, the United States has reaped $5.8 billion in revenue from the sale of cannabis both medically and recreationally. This number, of course, is also with 29 states and the District of Columbia legalizing the sale of cannabis in some form. Even just sticking with Oregon’s example, they sold $393 million in legal sales of which $292 million was adult recreational use, and recently distributed $85 million in tax revenues to schools, police, and health services.

While anti-cannabis legislators and supporters are quick to write this off, this is a lot of revenue for a state to increase their gross earnings by when the sale of just one thing is legalized and regulated. Pro-cannabis supporters invite you to think about the world this way; how much would the United States’ GDP increase if cannabis was legalized recreationally and medically on a federal level?

“As a state regulated business I support efforts to get control of farms illegally distributing,” remarked James Schwartz, CEO of CascadeHigh Organics. “Those of us who have worked extremely hard and spent countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to be a compliant business want the support of State and Federal Agencies to crack down on illegal operators who are unsafely black marketing their product.”

What Is Sessions’ Trying to Bar Us from in Medicine?

Of course, there are many people who would enjoy the chance to light up without the government stepping in on their fun. However, this thought sometimes gets in the way when legislators against the idea think of deregulation. Instead, it is important to remind legislators that they aren’t just deciding on fun, they are deciding on a substance that has largely untapped medical potential. Just to name a few, cannabis has been proven or hypothesized to help with the following medical problems;

  • Chronic pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Anxiety and Panic Disorders
  • Reverse the Lung Damage of Tobacco Use
  • Epilepsy and Dravet’s Syndrome
  • Cancer
  • And much, much more

While Sessions’ may have failed in convincing Congress to allow him to prosecute legal cannabis dispensaries, there is still a long way to go in deregulation. Sessions and legislators like him are sure to cause more problems in the future but this only means that pro-cannabis legislators need all the support they can get.

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