Senators hold a ‘one-sided prohibitionist party’ – marijuana activists
Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) may be on opposite sides of the political aisle, but they are on the same page when it comes to opposing marijuana legalization as co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics.
Despite representing a state that has legalized medical marijuana, Senator Feinstein authored letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State John Kerry last year to point out, “It is our understanding that no one in the Justice Department has initiated a centralized effort to measure the overall effect of these laws,” the LA Times reported.
The ironically named Senator Grassley, who opposes changing weed from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug, recently told the Des Moines Register, “Recent studies suggest marijuana use by young people can cause long-term and possibly permanent damage to brain development.”
Joining them at the hearing were Sam B. Wagner, a federal prosecutor with a history of prosecuting low-level marijuana crimes; Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who unsuccessfully attempted to sue Colorado over their legalization of marijuana in the Supreme Court; and Kathryn Wells, a pediatrician on the Science Advisory Board of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-marijuana group that envisions a society where “commercialization and normalization of marijuana are no more.”
Offering a counterpoint to the one-sided group was… no one. A press release from the Drug Policy Alliance, a group advocating for drug policy reform, called the hearings a “one-sided prohibitionist party.”
The points raised by the hearing’s speakers and participants sounded like those that might be made at a DARE meeting, though even that prominent drug-free organization has backed off its anti-marijuana campaigns.
Grassley argued that marijuana is a gateway drug, connecting it to the heroin and opioid epidemic currently ravaging much of the US.
“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,” Grassley said.
However, the Washington Post points out that, as a result of marijuana’s potentially pain relieving properties, broadening accessibility to pot could reduce the need for painkilling drugs, possibly reducing the related risk of addiction and overdoses.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said that Colorado’s recreational and medicinal legalization are negatively affecting his state’s youth.
“I can tell you story after story of... high school students gathering up their money and sending a buyer into Colorado and bringing [marijuana] edibles back or bringing the product back,” he said.
Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) contradicts those claims. SAMHSA found that from 2012 to 2014, marijuana usage in Nebraska declined among teens. In 2012, Colorado voted to pass Amendment 64, a measure that legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use to adults aged 21 years or older.
California, Arizona, Nevada, and Massachusetts are also going to the polls to vote on similar legalization this year. With Colorado’s pot industry raking in just under $1 billion in 2015 alone, the pro-marijuana side may not have needed to attend the Senate’s caucus on international narcotics.