Today there was a hearing held in the United States Senate dealing with marijuana, and although I wasn’t there to see it in person, from what I’ve read, it was like something straight out of the 1930’s. The hearing was completely one sided, with one marijuana opponent after another being paraded in and doing their little reefer madness presentation. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who called for the hearing along with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), had the following to say at the hearing, per The Washington Post, which it sounds like set the tone for the day:
“The Department of Justice decided to all but abandon the enforcement of federal law relating to the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana.”
Really Senator Grassley? Because a quick Google News search shows that the feds just conducted raids in Colorado, and in recent weeks a very popular cannabis company in Oregon was the target of a federal investigation. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve hammered home the point. To say that the feds have abandoned the enforcement of federal marijuana law is ridiculous. There are people wasting their lives away in federal prison right now for marijuana only offenses and for Senator Grassley to suggest that those lives are not being currently ruined by prohibition is disgusting.
Those weren’t the only disparaging comments made during the hearing. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said something that offended a lot of people today. Per the same Washington Post article:
Caucus member Jeff Sessions (R.-Al.) spoke of the need to foster ”knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
I agree with Senator Sessions in that I too think that cannabis is not something to laugh about. But I strongly disagree with his blatantly offensive comments towards the moral character of cannabis consumers. To make such a blanket negative statement directed towards tens of millions of Americans that choose to make the safer choice should not be tolerated. Some of the nicest, kindest, most compassionate people I know are cannabis consumers. They volunteer in their communities, help the needy, live responsibly, and don’t harm anyone in anyway. To say such things about them is hurtful and irresponsible. A lot of people consume cannabis for medical purposes, and no one should ever suggest that those suffering patients are bad people by default simply and only because they use cannabis to help treat their conditions.
The ‘what about the kids’ argument was in full force, with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson leading the charge. You may recognize his name from recent news articles, as his federal lawsuit against Colorado’s legalization law was thrown out by the Supreme Court. Mr. Peterson tried very hard to lay it on thick suggesting that legalization in Colorado has created an epidemic of stoned youth in his state. That of course doesn’t stand up against the facts. Per The Washington Post article:
But official federal data contradict Peterson’s anecdotal evidence. In the period between 2012 and 2014, monthly marijuana use declined slightly among Nebraska high school students, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, although not by a statistically significant amount. Teen marijuana use in Colorado and Washington, the two states that legalized recreational marijuana over that period, was flat.
Senator Grassley tried to blame the current heroin and opioid epidemic to marijuana legalization by stating the following:
“And just last year, the Centers for Disease Control found that people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin. So if the Obama Administration is serious about addressing this epidemic, it should stop burying its head in the sand about what’s happening to its enforcement priorities on recreational marijuana.”
That claim directly conflicts with a recent study that actually found the opposite, that increased medical cannabis use by people that suffered from chronic pain resulted in less opioid use. There are real cannabis reform bills sitting in the Senate right now waiting for a hearing, namely the CARERS act and Bernie Sanders’ de-scheduling bill. But instead of having constructive conversations about those bills or about cannabis policy in America in general, Senators Grassley and Feinstein felt that a reefer madness hearing was a better idea. This is 2016. I cannot believe that the hearing that was held today seemed like a good idea to anyone. What a waste of time, and a slap in the face to the American people.