Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who has blocked roughly three dozen marijuana amendments from being considered on the House floor over the past several years, is now in ongoing talks with a group advocating for legal access to medical cannabis, his office announced.
The news has taken some legalization advocates by surprise given the congressman’s ardent opposition to marijuana legislation and habit of impeding reform measures from advancing as chairman of the House Rules Committee.
Sessions, whose son has Down syndrome, said in a newsletter that he shares a common interest with the group Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA): namely, finding “solutions for our children to help improve their quality of life when nothing seems to help.”
“I was pleased to get to continue our conversations together in my Dallas office on Monday because I believe that by working together, real progress can be made,” he said. “I look forward to continuing my journey with parents like Amy, Thalia and Mayra as we look to find the best solutions for our children.”
Sessions is up for re-election in November, and he’s facing an increasingly tight race against civil rights attorney and former NFL player Colin Allred that’s been graded as a “toss-up” by political watchers. Allred, who supports medical marijuana legalization, has seized on Sessions’s opposition to cannabis reform, calling his resistance “unfortunate.”
It is unfortunate that Pete Sessions refuses to acknowledge that medical marijuana can help our veterans coming back from war who are struggling with PTSD and chronic pain. https://t.co/NxpfE55Xzr
— Colin Allred (@ColinAllredTX) June 7, 2018
Sessions, meanwhile, has made a series of questionable statements about cannabis. In January, for example, he said “marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way.”
But members of MAMMA say their conversations with Sessions mark a unique opportunity to push the ball forward on cannabis reform in Congress. After one member approached the congressman at the Texas Republican Party convention in June—where the state party formally endorsed marijuana decriminalization and medical cannabis expansion—he apparently took a special interest in the group’s cause.
“I was very encouraged,” Thalia Michelle, co-founder and vice president of MAMMA, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “I found him very gracious, very receptive.”
Sessions told the group that it’s not simply his personal view on marijuana legalization that’s led him to block votes on cannabis legislation. Some of those amendments contain other provisions that have “been added or it’s too broad,” Michelle recalled him saying. And while he’s not necessarily supportive of medical cannabis, there were certain areas where “he’s been misinformed.”
The group said that they worked through some of those misunderstandings and are actively working to inform him about the benefits of medical cannabis.
Sessions seemed especially understanding when MAMMA members described the “challenges and difficulties” of treating their children with traditional pharmaceuticals, which don’t always work and sometimes carry serious side effects.
“He was very moved by that and, I think, understood our position and why we feel so passionately about the issue,” she said. “I think there was a lot of understanding there on his end.”
In any case, there’s still a healthy amount of skepticism among advocates about the impact of these discussions in light of Sessions’s record. On Facebook, a number of people commented on MAMMA’s post about the meetings, arguing that the congressman is interminably stuck in his way.
Michelle said her group fully understands their perspective and the frustration many feel after decades of seeing legislation halted at the doorway. That said, she feels “it does the movement more good to bridge the gap and find common ground and see what his objections are” than avoiding any dialogue altogether.
“If there’s a way for us to find more mutual understanding, I think that makes sense,” she said.
Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording
President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.
“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.
Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote
Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.
The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.
“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”
The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.
“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.
The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.
Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.
The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.
The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.
Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.
But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans
Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.
“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”
“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”
Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.
He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.
That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.
At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”
“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.