For a while Thursday you may have seen the words "Obama-era" and “Jeff Sessions” trending all over social media.
That’s because Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a one-page memo Thursday rescinding the Obama administration’s legal guidance on the enforcement of marijuana laws, allowing states to legalize pot without federal intervention.
Session’s enforcement memo makes it clear marijuana possession and distribution is against federal law. The move could impact millions of dollars and thousands of jobs that have been generated by the legal cannabis industry.
The attorney general’s new guidelines are making people questions how will this impact the buying and selling of marijuana in states where it’s legal. It also has people in our area questioning the future of medical marijuana.
Monique Zimmerman says she relies on it often to help with pain caused by glaucoma.
“I sometimes use it 2-3 times a day, sometimes only 2-3 times a week,” she said.
She and her husband Gary Stein have been married for more than 30 years. They often drive to Trulieve, one of Tampa’s medical marijuana dispensaries, for her medicine.
“If she had access to that medicine when she was first diagnosed she would have her eyesight today, but now she’s completely blind,” Stein said.
Zimmerman says the medicine she was given by other doctors didn’t work. She says the only thing helping her glaucoma pain is medical cannabis.
“Within seconds it's instant relief. I can feel the glaucoma pressure go down.”
Now, with Sessions rescinding the Obama-era policy, Zimmerman and Stein are worried the ruling could impact medicine they and thousands of others rely on.
“There are people whose lives actually depend on it,” Stein said.
The ruling, which reiterates marijuana is still illegal federally, gives the Department of Justice authority to attack the eight states where marijuana is legal and 29 others, including Florida, where its legal for medicinal purposes.
“Every one of those is questioning whether they can invest in more business or whether or not the federal government is going to come down and start taking away all of their product,” Stein said.
Stein's working to get a book published called "The Great Green Hope" that delves into the history of cannabis and the importance of legalization. He says the federal government should have no part of that.
“The states create these laws for the state, and the federal government should not have the power to just go in and pre-empt them. That’s just wrong,” he said.
In 2016, 71 percent of Floridians voted for legalizing medical marijuana. According to a recent Gallop poll, 64 percent of voters support recreational use nationwide.
Zimmerman and Stein hope this latest policy change won’t impact the momentum of support.
“This medical cannabis would be considered a miracle drug if it weren’t for all the burden of untruths and misguided logic that’s gone on since the 1930s,” Stein said.
For now, nothing changes in Florida.
Zimmerman will be able to continue to get her medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana on the other hand, will likely be on hold for years. Supporters will have to see if it ends up on 2020 ballot.
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