Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Me And Pot And Jeff Sessions


A little background: I was a major stoner... in the 1960s, when I was in college. I stopped using drugs on January 1, 1969 sitting in my van on the border between Pakistan and India. I had no interest in smoking pot after that-- other than when Neil Young delivered a new album to me personally-- I worked at his record label. Once I was up at his ranch listening to his new songs and I took a couple of hits and got wasted and there was a huge buffalo staring at me on the other side of a window. Other than those times, pot was off my radar. And I have to admit, when I heard about "medical marijuana," in the back on my mind, though I was 100% fine with the idea of it, I figured it was some kind of scam for legalization (which I've always favored). Then I got cancer.

The doctor fights the cancer-- and my doctor at City of Hope is the best there is-- but the patient fights the side effects of the treatment. I still am to this day-- bigly. So after chemo all sorts of lovely things happen to you. Three that mad life barely worth living were pain, inability to sleep and inability to eat. I wasted away and people stared at me on the street. And when you can't sleep and can't eat and feel pain everywhere all the time... well, then you don't heel. Someone suggested marijuana oil. I didn't want to get high. Then I found out they have some that has the "medical" benefits without the psychedelic factor (more or less). My doctor told me she thought it was a good idea.

I took some oil one night before going to bed. I slept the first solid 8 hours I had managed in months. I woke up and yelled to my sister, "I'm starving; can you make some scrambled eggs with toast?" One time and I was sleeping and eating! The neuropathy pains dissipated and after a couple weeks I put the marijuana oil away and didn't use it again.

The next step for me was a stem cell replacement operation. That often causes pneumonia, which in turn, can leave the patient with a chronic cough for life. I don't want to dwell on this but think of the chronic cough like this: writhing on the floor, forcefully kicking your legs so you can try to breath.

The head of City of Hope's pulmonary department worked with me for months to find the right formula to stop the coughing, which was making normal life impossible for me. Eventually we found it. There are 5 daily components and when I've experimented my taking any one of the 5 out of the mix, the cough is back in a day, in all its glory. One of the components is my old friend medical marijuana.

And that brings us to... a recent trip abroad. How to bring the oil? It's legal enough in California... but the TSA are, generally speaking-- and I know its politically incorrect to generalize like this-- are a pack of assholes. The wrong guy with the wrong dog and-- BOOM!-- I could have wound up in jail instead of on my plane.

And, in turn, that brings us to... Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the biggest asshole other than Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt (and maybe some others) in the Trumpanzee Cabinet. This isn't about Putin-Gate or even about the Attorney General's penchant for lying under oath. It's about this headline from Think Progress: Sessions asks Congress to let him prosecute medical pot shops, patients.
While recreational marijuana companies remain in precarious territory under federal law, Congress has for years protected medicinal cannabis suppliers and patients from the boots and rifles of federal agents.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is begging lawmakers to rescind that safe harbor for medical pot--  and claiming that the very prescription painkiller epidemic that medicinal cannabis helps stunt should prompt the government to crack down on doctor-prescribed marijuana.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote in a May letter to congressional leaders which was obtained Monday by marijuana legalization advocate Tom Angell. Its authenticity was confirmed Tuesday by the Washington Post.

At one point in the letter, Sessions cites a recent Colorado case where licensed medical marijuana distributors were caught moving cannabis out of the state--  but those people have been indicted and face criminal charges in the state, undermining Sessions’ argument that the case necessitates federal assistance.

Congress has been “restrict[ing] the discretion,” in Sessions’ words, of federal law enforcement to hammer medical weed for three years. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA) led a successful bipartisan push to attach language to congressional budgets prohibiting the Department of Justice from going after medicinal cannabis in states which have made the treatment legal.

Sessions invokes the opioid epidemic as a reason to shred the bipartisan consensus that medical cannabis ought to be left alone. But that is backwards: Research indicates that medical cannabis is a valuable resource in the fight against that wave of addiction and fatalities tied to heroin and its pharmaceutical cousins.

In states where medical weed is legal, the average doctor prescribes 1,826 fewer doses of prescription painkillers each year, economist David Bradford found in research published last summer in Health Affairs. “That translates into many millions [fewer] doses per year in those states,” Science noted. Similar research from University of Michigan doctors found a potential 64 percent decrease in opioid use among patients who are prescribed cannabis.

While the existing research is promising, findings remain limited--  in large part because the absolutist prohibitions Sessions so adores in federal policy have made it all but impossible to conduct broad, thorough scientific research on cannabis for decades.

But even if the eye-popping hard evidence against Sessions’ proposal is limited in scale, it’s not hard to guess which class of pain medication poses the greater public health risk. Opioid and heroin overdoses kill tens of thousands of Americans per year. Zero people have died of a marijuana overdose, ever. Making it harder to get medical pot in states where lawmakers and voters have made it available will necessarily push more pain patients onto the rocky path of prescription drug use.

Sessions’ desire to keep the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment off this year’s budgets is predictable. The attorney general is an ardent drug warrior who once lamented in a 2016 hearing that state legalization has undone decades of public effort “to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Decades earlier in his public service career, Sessions allegedly joked that he didn’t think the Ku Klux Klan were so bad “until I found out they smoked pot.”

In the intervening years, Sessions was a relentless opponent of any effort to relax laws around pot at either the state or federal level. His nomination as Attorney General was widely expected to herald a reversal of years of wait-and-see federal law enforcement policy toward populist efforts in the states to make recreational adult use of cannabis legal and profitable.

But until this week, it was less clear if Sessions’ pot crusade would also extend to medicinal flowers, pills, ointments, and edibles. It will--  unless Congress stops him.
It amazes me that I could have brought pounds of truly dangerous prescription opioids with me without having to spend 2 seconds worrying about it but because of reactionaries like Sessions, I had to spend weeks worrying about a little harmless marijuana oil. These are some comments from cannabis industry executives after Sessions' letter was made public:
Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech: "We hope that attorney general Jeff Sessions would really take time to learn about the industry, its economic as well as social benefits. Taxing and regulating cannabis is the only way to take the money out of the hands of the cartels. We've seen decriminalization work and we know the drug war is a failed effort. Cannabis has proven to be a relatively safe medical option as well as a recreational social alternative. We have an opportunity to set precedent and lead a global effort to change our perspective on drug use."

Emily Gordon, In-House Counsel at Simplifya: "Sessions continues to push marijuana policy stances that are not only at odds with the opinions of the majority of Americans-- a recent national poll showed that 73% of Americans oppose Federal interference in state marijuana regulation - but which contradict data on the positive impacts legalization has had in states across the country. If nothing else, this latest attack may spur a renewed push among marijuana businesses to continue to be good citizens and neighbors in their communities, and to make sure their operations are in full compliance with all state and local laws, which can only help to take away any legitimacy that could be possibly be given to this attack and any future attacks Sessions may make."

Jeffrey Zucker, President of Green Lion Partners: "Jeff Sessions and other members of the administration are showing their clear ignorance regarding the war on drugs. It’s not just common sentiment, it’s fact that cannabis has the capacity for medical benefit and that enforcement has disproportionately targeted minorities. Active markets around the country are providing incredible benefits for patients, tax revenues for states, and jobs for thousands of people. Most of the country seems to understand these things now, but unfortunately it seems that those in power are the least informed. It’s time for the administration to look at the facts and to be open-minded and willing to learn about the truth behind the cannabis movement."

Bryan Meltzer, Partner at Feuerstein Kulick LLP: "Attorney General Sessions’ letter to Congress is a reaction to the extension of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment and is consistent with his prior hostile position on legal medical marijuana. If anything, the letter indicates that while the DOJ disagrees with the amendment, it will respect the will of Congress. And given the broad bi-partisan congressional support and overwhelming public support for state-regulated medical marijuana, it is much more likely that Congress will continue to move forward on this issue, including by fixing the tax and banking issues that currently plague the industry, rather than moving backward by appeasing Sessions’ request."

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At 6:29 PM, Blogger Kurt said...

I continue to be amazed by the administration's willingness to overextend its reach even as it topples backward on its heels. Even so, if we work on increasing the pressure, Sessions could be out of office soon.

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sessions could stand to experience Orange Sunshine in his sweet tea.

At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kurt, what exactly could "we" do to increase pressure and get that little pos out of office?

As long as he's servile to herr drumpfsterfire and whatever "investigations" into Russia stonewall long enough to let the populace forget all about it, just what would make that asshat resign? Certainly nobody will fire him.
Perjury at his confirmation? Puhleeeze! 4 of the supremes and everyone in the cabinet would be gone if that were a "thing".
Perjury at his recent lie-fest in congress? see above.
Lying about Russia? see above.
overreach? puhleeeeze!


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