Email #244: “dangerous drug traffickers”?

Marijuana is legal in the Netherlands and openly smoked in Amsterdam coffee shops. While I have no intention of smoking any pot while here with my family, I see the argument for the country not squandering its tax dollars prosecuting people who do. While I am indifferent to whether marijuana should be legalized generally in the U.S., I am pleased that medical marijuana has been.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to the 2015 appropriations bill specifies that:

“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent any [states] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This was common-sense, bipartisan legislation. The amendment was named after conservative Republican Rep. Rohrabacher, and it was brought to the floor of a Republican-controlled House where 49 Republicans joined with Democrats to pass it.

Sadly, I see you were not one of those Republicans. Worse, I see Attorney General Sessions hopes to see the amendment revoked. He wrote to Congress arguing that the amendment would inhibit the Justice Department’s ability to enforce the Controlled Substances Act:

“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. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

While I am pleased the Attorney General is battling dangerous drug trafficking, medical marijuana is a separate issue. According to a Quinnipiac poll from April, 94% of Americans approve of medical marijuana. And the medical research community has reached a consensus about its unique benefits, especially the alleviation of chronic pain. Moreover, states with medical marijuana record fewer deaths due to opiate overdose.

And yet Attorney General Sessions seems unaware, stating:

“I see a line in The Washington Post today that I remember from the ’80s, ‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

Science has already proven him wrong. Our Attorney General should not be making 2017 Justice Department policy based on his 80s-era assumptions. I ask that the House Judiciary Committee please caution him accordingly.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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