U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions edict this week to federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have decriminalized its production and sale for recreational use drew a wide local and national reaction.
Sessions’ order rescinded a Obama era memo to federal prosecutions to back burner marijuana-related offenses and focus on more serious crimes. President Trump last May signed a bill that disallows the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency from using federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana businesses in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Lawmakers from both parties representing states where marijuana is legal across the country responded unfavorably to the attorney general’s decision. Vermont, in fact, voted last night, 81 to 63, to legalize the plant, making it the ninth state to permit recreational marijuana.
Currently, the use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in New York. Here is what candidates vying for the 11th Congressional district representing Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island had to say about Sessions’ announcement — noting the district is one of the city’s hardest hit in battling the opioid crisis.
U.S. Representative Dan Donovan (R): Congressman Donovan believes states should have the final say in permitting medical marijuana, based of course on extensive input from the medical community. He supports the New York legislature’s decision to allow medical marijuana.
Regarding recreational use, Donovan personally opposes it. As a father and former prosecutor, he has serious concerns about legalizing a substance that could be a gateway drug and worsen the historic drug crisis.
Like Trump, though, he believes this is a question best reserved for individual states to decide on their own, just as they do for alcohol.”
Michael Grimm (R): “As a primary caretaker for ailing former Congressman Guy Molinari, I see firsthand the difficulty of dealing with extreme pain and am open to continued research into the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis. However, with Staten Island and Brooklyn suffering from a devastating opioid epidemic that is tearing apart our community, I do not believe promoting recreational drug use would be helpful to our families. The Attorney General must do everything possible to curtail this insidious epidemic and we should all support him, especially since many medical professionals see marijuana as a gateway drug that can lead to the use of other drugs and ultimately even heroin.”
Michael DeVito Jr. (D): “I’m determined to pursue legislation that moves forward, not backward, in marijuana policy. This is a time when we need greater access to solutions for veterans with PTSD, children with seizures, and patients like my wife, all who have found in cannabis the most life-saving relief.
“De-scheduling is my immediate goal, and there’s so much hope for our country if we have the courage to explore adult use legalization and its potential for community reinvestment and restorative justice. I submit a plea right now for Donovan to immediately take action on HR 1227, just as my wife pleaded to him in person to be a champion on this before I filed to challenge his seat. Swift action by Congress can nullify Sessions’ misguided, cruel policy.
“I met with many elected officials from Colorado when I was at the Victory Fund in DC last month, and they all spoke candidly about how smart legislation and regulation were having a positive impact in their state. These are the experts we should be consulting. Real answers are in front of us, and that’s clearly what our country expects and wants from legislators.”
Max Rose (D): “There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how stupid and cruel this decision is. It is morally reprehensible that in the middle of an opioid and heroin epidemic, Jeff Sessions thinks cracking down on states that legalized marijuana should be his priority. This decision will only make it harder for cancer patients, my fellow veterans suffering from PTSD, and others dealing with serious illnesses to have access to a drug that has given so many their lives back. There are more than enough members of Congress in the states impacted to pass legislation that overturns this cruel decision and restores the previous policy – It’s time for them to stand up.”
Michael DeCillis (D): “The unfortunate and backward decision by AG Sessions to interfere in state’s individual cannabis laws sets the clock back fifty years, and flies in the face of individual states’ rights to set their own policy based on the democratic process. This decision threatens our own district’s continued access to New York’s Medical Marijuana Program, which provides relief to people in our community that suffer from debilitating illness and pain. We should be free from government interference when choosing the best course of medical treatment in consultation with our doctors. This decision will waste time and taxpayer money for no reason whatsoever, fighting against a policy that a majority of Americans support.”
Omar Vaid (D): “Jeff Sessions’ decision to override the Cole memo undermines the regulated marijuana industry. For Trump to take this action indirectly benefits drug dealers and a black market that is destructive to our communities. I believe removing illegal drug dealers from the equation would benefit Staten Island and Brooklyn.”
Paul Sperling (D): “Marijuana has been proven to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. As a legal industry, it has created over 123,000 new American jobs. A number that is expected to more than double over the next 2 years. Sales have generated over $1billion in new tax revenue. Which many states have used to fund their public schools. Legalization also gives law enforcement more time and resources to go after real criminals. Trillions of dollars have been wasted fighting the failed war on marijuana. It’s time for a new approach.”
Zach Emig (D): “As the opioid crisis continues to ravage America, Attorney General Sessions’ choice of resuscitating the anti-weed crusades of his dixie youth is pathetic. It’s time to modernize our drug policy: pro-vaping to help smokers, legalization of marijuana for adults, handcuffs for opioid CEOs, and universal healthcare inclusive of substance abuse treatment to help addicts.”
Radhakrishna Mohan (D): “Attorney General Jeff Sessions new Memo on use of marijuana will less likely to affect the District 11 Congressional District, of which I am a candidate, as the use of medical marijuana is permitted under New York State Law as Congress voted in its last session to extend a spending provision which blocks the Justice Department from using federal funds to impede the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. I am in favor of use of Marijuana for Medical reasons as stated in our current NY State law on this subject and not for possession, as we are currently dealing with OPIOID epidemics, allowing recreational use of Marijuana will only add more fuel to the fire with OPIOID crisis.
“I would like to take stand after a clear picture emerges as how to apply State and Federal provisions regarding use of Marijuana. As I stated earlier I am in favor of use of Marijuana for Medical reasons as stated in our current NY State law on this subject.
“This is on going new direction for all the states in US, and it needs more time to come out with a clear direction to plan for adoption the law for the use of Marijuana. As it is 22 States chosen to adopt use of Marijuana for Medical reasons while 8 states adopted use it for both Recreational and Medical Purpose.”