Undeterred, Iowa medical cannabis plan proceeds

The federal government’s top attorney wants the freedom to prosecute states – such as Iowa – with medical marijuana programs, a letter made public last week shows.

Iowa officials insist the state’s newly expanded program, which includes the chance for two businesses to grow and sell medical cannabis, will remain safe from federal scrutiny.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a letter to congressional leaders opposing language in the federal budget that prohibits the Justice Department from using its resources to prosecute states that adopt medical marijuana laws.

Marijuana is not recognized by the federal government as a medicinal plant, so state 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.

The “Historic drug epidemic” to which Sessions refers appears to involve addictive opioid drugs such as heroin and some painkilling medicines, not the medicinal cannabis used in state medical marijuana programs.

Sessions in the letter said drug traffickers “Cultivate and distribute marijuana inside the United States under the guise of state medical marijuana laws” and asserted smoking marijuana “Has significant negative health effects.”

State officials insisted Iowa’s program will not come under federal prosecution and implementation of the recent expansion will continue.

Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said she thinks the state program’s regulations will keep it safe.

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, who for years has pushed for the state medical cannabis program and its expansion, said Sessions’ letter displays “a massive overreach by the Trump administration” and said it would be a waste of taxpayer money to prosecute states that have developed medical marijuana programs to help ailing residents.

In states with medical marijuana programs, opioid-related hospitalizations for addiction and abuse dropped an average of 23 percent, and for overdoses 13 percent, according to a study published in March in the online medical journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

State Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, who is a pharmacist, said the federal government should leave it to states to decide whether they want to operate medical marijuana programs.

“I’m disappointed the federal government would step in and try to tell states how to provide medical services to their constituents,” he said.

The U.S. attorney general stating a desire to prosecute state programs also may dissuade potential businesses.

Source: The Gazette