Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration’s attorney general, fielded an array of questions from the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, including inquiries about his role in the presidential campaign as it applies to contact with Russians, possible investigations into the Uranium One sale, and the AT&T-Time Warner merger.
But there was also a question about the administration’s policy about marijuana. Sessions, a long time cannabis prohibitionist, said “Our policy is the same really, fundamentally, as the Holder-Lynch policy, which is that the federal law remains in effect, and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes.”
The answer was important to a group currently suing Sessions, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over the claim that the Controlled Substance Act is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs currently include five people: 12-year-old Alexis Bortell, who uses cannabis oil to ward of life-threatening seizures, 6-year-old Jagger Cotte who is being treated for Leigh syndrome, former NFL Linebacker Marvin Washington who has also founded Isodiol Performance which makes cannabis-based products that help with head trauma. Iraq War veteran Jose Belen who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and The Cannabis Cultural Association.
At issue is that while 29 states and three U.S. territories have cleared marijuana for medical use, the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule I drug under the CSA. According to the DEA’s schedule (which was created in 1971), that means marijuana has “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD.
But because some states have approved marijuana for medical and other purposes while others haven’t, a disparity exists that would keep patients who use cannabis therapy from moving to or traveling in states where the drug is still illegal. Also, there’s been concern that Sessions could crack down on legal marijuana, despite what he said in front of the House Judicial Committee on Tuesday.
In Bortell’s case, she cannot travel without cannabis oil—a treatment she has opted for over brain surgery—and that limits her ability to visit her grandparents’ home state of Texas (where medical marijuana is illegal) or to go onto military bases with her veteran parents, reports NBC News.
That leaves Bortell, and patients like her, in limbo. “She just wants to be like everybody else,” Alexis’ father, Dean Bortell, told NBC News. “When she grows up, she wants to be free to choose where she lives and what she does for a living.”
Until the state and federal cannabis incompatibility is resolved, anyone who uses medical marijuana will find their lives limited to places where they can be treated, not prosecuted.