RICHMOND, Va. — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly condemned the recreational use of marijuana. On Wednesday he went a step further, casting doubt on medical marijuana use.
"I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much," he told reporters after an event addressing violent crime in Richmond. "Dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial, I acknowledge that, but if you smoke marijuana for example, where you have no idea how much THC you're getting, it's probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount. So forgive me if I'm a bit dubious about that."
Sessions also cast doubt, as he has before, on the use of marijuana to curb opioid addiction.
Studies have shown that medical marijuana laws and access to medical marijuana dispensaries are associated with fewer opioid deaths and less prescription painkiller abuse.
During his campaign, President Donald Trump said he was "100 percent" in favor of medical marijuana. White House spokesman Sean Spicer recently confirmed that the president sees a "big difference" between using marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.
"The problem is that you're seeing now a disagreement between Sessions and the president on the issue of medical marijuana," said Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance. "It's concerning because the administration, the White House themselves have sort of committed themselves to not going after medical marijuana. Sessions is out casting doubt on that."
Smoking is a necessary way to consume medical marijuana, he said, because chronic pain sufferers need the instantaneous relief other forms of the drug cannot provide. The dosage concern doesn't make sense, he said, because there's no evidence of fatal marijuana overdoses.
A congressional provision prevents the Justice Department from spending money to interfere with state-level medical marijuana programs. However, that appropriations amendment must be reauthorized this year. Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Collins said the federal government could easily do research into marijuana efficacy, but that opponents of legalization are standing in the way.
"The people complaining that more research needs to be done are the very people in a position to do the research," he said. "But they'll never do it, because they know the research will show the positives."
Independent studies have generally found marijuana to be effective for treating chronic pain, nausea and vomiting in cancer patients, and muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. But the Drug Enforcement Administration, which operates under the Justice Department, maintains that marijuana has no medical value.
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