Based on the fact that nearly 60% of the United States has legalized the use of medical marijuana, many might assume the “war on drugs” is beginning to wind down. However recent crime statistics are showing data to the contrary. Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its 2016 crime statistics. This report revealed that in 2016, there were 653,000 arrests for marijuana related crimes. More people were arrested for cannabis offences than for violent crimes such as rape, murder and assault.
Increase In Marijuana Related Arrests Ends Period Of Decreased Crime Rates
Millions of Americans voted to legalize medical and recreational cannabis in 2016. Yet the number of marijuana related arrests increased by more than 12% year-over-year. Nearly 90% of those arrested for cannabis are for simple possession charges. Despite evidence that supports the medical benefits of marijuana, this translates into hundreds of thousands of new prison inmates.
What is concerning about these FBI statistics is that marijuana related arrests increased even before Jeff Sessions became the Attorney General. Now with Sessions in charge, cannabis crimes are expected to increase in 2017. While the new administration hasn’t released any official policies as it relates to medical marijuana, Sessions has asked Congress to permit legal prosecution of citizens who reside in states where medical marijuana is legal. He has also reintroduced mandatory minimum sentencing for marijuana offences. Both of Sessions’ major declarations regarding his stance on medical marijuana make it likely that the Trump administration and the Department of Justice will not be easing restrictions any time soon.
Defending The (Seemingly) Dying Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment
While there is limited federal protection for medical marijuana patients, there is one major piece of legislation that is being threatened by House Republicans. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment on the Appropriations budget bill has been in place since 2014 and was designed to protect medical marijuana states from federal interference. The bill accomplishes this by blocking any federal funds from being used in the pursuit or prosecution of cannabis related arrests in states where medical marijuana is legalized. However House Republican leadership who are supporting Sessions letter to Congress are threatening this amendment.
Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher made a statement at the State of Cannabis Conference in Long Beach, CA on Friday.
When asked whether or not the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment would be renewed on the Appropriations bill this year, “this isn’t (the) time to think we’ve lost the battle, but there is a lot of maneuvering going on.” Rohrabacher went on to state that he has been “assured by the leadership that when the smoke clears, the bill will be law… but it will take a lot of maneuvering on my part.”
It is not surprising that anti-marijuana Republican leadership is looking to remove the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment from the 2017-18 budget. It looks like it’s up to constituents to hold their state representatives accountable on this issue. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 94% of U.S. citizens support legalizing medical cannabis. This is the highest approval rate since the poll has began. Those who support medical marijuana legalization are encouraged to communicate with their state representatives about their support of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.