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Sessions Attacks Washington’s Cannabis Laws in Letter to Governor

August 4, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a briefing at the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, Aug. 4, on leaks of classified material. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Amid uncertainty around whether President Trump’s Justice Department will respect state cannabis laws, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week sent a letter to Washington state officials slamming that state’s legal cannabis system. It’s the attorney general’s sharpest opposition to legal cannabis since he asked Congress to remove a crucial federal protection for medical marijuana states.

In the letter, sent to Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office upset the Trump administration by successfully challenging the White House’s travel ban, Sessions reiterates that “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a crime.” He cites a 2016 law enforcement report that he says “raises serious questions about the efficiency of marijuana ‘regulatory structures’ in your state.”


In Rebuke to Sessions, Senate Committee OKs Medical Marijuana Protections

Sessions’ letter, obtained and first reported by the Huffington Post, draws exclusively on the report by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, a drug-prohibition enforcement program out of the US Office of National Drug Control. It includes a laundry list of claims in an effort to show that Washington’s cannabis laws are failing to effectively regulate the industry.

76% of Americans support individual states being able to make their own laws around cannabis use and sales.

Not only is the medical market “considered ‘grey’ due to the lack of regulation and oversight,” Sessions writes, but “the ‘recreationally licensed’ marijuana market is also incompletely regulated.” He notes evidence for the diversion of Washington-grown cannabis into other US states and raises concerns about illegal sales of cannabis to minors.

Some of the statistics are misleading. The letter says, for example, that “In 2014 alone, 17 THC extraction labs exploded,” but it doesn’t say whether those labs were above-board operations or amateur, black-market concentrate makers. Virtually all explosions related to extraction have occurred at illegal and unregulated facilities.

He also writes that “Washington State marijuana has been found to have been destined for 43 different states,” though he doesn’t specify what that means. While there have been some recorded examples of larger shipments of cannabis being diverted out of the state, Sessions’ numbers could very well include a tourist’s attempt to bring a vape pen home on an airplane.

As for underage use, several studies have shown that cannabis consumption by minors in legal-cannabis states has remained steady or even fallen. In Colorado, a report found that rates of use increased among adults from 2005 to 2014 but actually decreased among minors.


Colorado Report: More Adults Using Cannabis, but Not Kids

Sessions’ letter came in response to three separate letters from Washington state officials urging him to respect the state’s cannabis laws. In his reply, he writes that he appreciates the “offer to engage in continuing dialogue on this important issue.” He then directs state officials to explain how they plan to solve every problem in the system.

“Please advise as to how Washington plans to address the findings in the Northwest HIDTA report,” he writes, “including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws.”


Jeff Sessions’ (Unfounded) Love Letter to DARE

Earlier this year, a Quinnipiac poll found that 94% of Americans support allowing doctors prescribing adults medical marijuana.

Another survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for the advocacy organization Marijuana Majority, found that 76% of Americans support individual states being able to make their own laws around cannabis use and sales.

The full letter from Sessions is embedded below:


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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • Wise Pen

    The “Founding Fathers of America”, would have created an amendment.Had they seen a reason,or a disbelief in authority.Medicine should come from natural sources.To consider a plant a criminal, proves how naive or greedy people choose to be.

  • usaok59

    It’s a damn plant and is far less harmful and more effective than the prescription drugs that are making a few rich! For people who can’t function without HTC it is unconscionable that a few prevent MM from being available.

  • Harry Houston

    Dear Sir.
    How can you support a law that is both racist and unconstitutional?

    I offer this CNN report as my evidence.

    “You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

    I also offer the statements of Harry J. Anslinger

    Harry J. Anslinger quotes:
    ‘…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.’

    Harry J. Anslinger quotes:
    ‘Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.’

    Harry J. Anslinger quotes:
    ‘There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.’

    Harry J. Anslinger quotes
    ‘Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.’
    As well as United States Patent 6,630,507 October 7, 2003

    Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants

    Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH.sub.3, and COCH.sub.3. ##STR1##

    Look at (The Shafer Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse)
    “ … Therefore, the Commission recommends … [that the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration, no longer be an offense.”
    – Shafer Commission, 1972

    Drug Enforcement Administration

    In The Matter Of )
    ) Docket No. 86-22

    Administrative LAW JUDGE.

    FRANCIS L. YOUNG, Administrative Law Judge

    DATED: SEP 6 1988
    FRANCIS L. YOUNG, Administrative Law Judge
    Part VIII.


    With respect to whether or not there is “a lack of accepted safety
    for use of [marijuana] under medical supervision”, the record shows the
    following facts to be uncontroverted.

    Findings of Fact
    Point 3. The most obvious concern when dealing with drug safety is the possibility of lethal effects. Can the drug cause death?
    4. Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
    5. This is a remarkable statement. First, the record on marijuana encompasses 5,000 years of human experience. Second, marijuana is now used daily by enormous numbers of people throughout the world. Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death.
    6. By contrast aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, causes hundreds of deaths each year.
    7. Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
    8. At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around
    1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in onemarijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.
    9. In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.
    10. Another common medical way to determine drug safety is called the therapeutic ratio. This ratio defines the difference between a therapeutically effective dose and a dose which is capable of inducing adverse effects.
    11. A commonly used over-the-counter product like aspirin has a therapeutic ratio of around 1:20. Two aspirins are the recommended dose for adult patients. Twenty times this dose, forty aspirins, may cause a lethal reaction in some patients, and will almost certainly cause gross injury to the digestive system, including extensive internal bleeding.
    12. The therapeutic ratio for prescribed drugs is commonly around 1:10 or lower. Valium, a commonly used prescriptive drug, may cause very serious biological damage if patients use ten times the recommended (therapeutic) dose.
    13. There are, of course, prescriptive drugs which have much lower therapeutic ratios. Many of the drugs used to treat patients with cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis are highly toxic. The therapeutic ratio of some of the drugs used in antineoplastic therapies, for example, are regarded as extremely toxic poisons with therapeutic ratios that may fall below 1:1.5. These drugs also have very low LD-50 ratios and can result in toxic, even lethal reactions, while being properly employed.

    14. By contrast, marijuana’s therapeutic ratio, like its LD-50, is impossible to quantify because it is so high.
    15. In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.
    16. Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

    I remind you sir that you are a member of the degenerate races that he was referring to, thus you are actually supporting racism against yourself.

    Tell a lie long enough the people believe it to be the truth to the point where the very ones that are being targeted and oppressed by the lie believe it’s in their best interest.

    As proof of the statement you need but look at yourself sir, you are the one being targeted and oppressed by the lie and yet you publicly and professionally support it.

    Any law written to deliberately target oppress and criminalize specific segments of the population is by definition unconstitutional.

    How can you possibly justify the state-sponsored attempt at genocide; the complete and total eradication of a species of plant off the face of the planet? Where is the death, where is the destruction, where are the lines at the emergency room, where are the bodies? Where are the mental health facilities filled with people suffering from cannabinoid psychosis? Do you have any evidence at all showing that cannabis is truly the most dangerous substance on the face of the earth?

    I ask sir that you reconsider your position.

  • David Yoseph Schreiber

    Has this man been graced by Bill Clinton?

  • Shoreline1

    Americas, land of the free.