U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ramping up federal enforcement of marijuana laws. That could put medical marijuana businesses and patients in Connecticut at risk.
Currently, 30 states, including Connecticut, have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Obama administration guidelines allowed individual states to implement their own marijuana laws and kept federal authorities from cracking down.
Sessions’s decision to reverse those guidelines now authorizes the federal government to enforce the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 - a law that Quinnipiac University law professor John Thomas said puts weed in the most restricted drug category.
“That act contains five schedules,” Thomas said. ”Schedule one being the most significantly controlled. Schedule five being the least restrictive. Marijuana is in schedule one along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote.”
That means any kind of marijuana use, even in minuscule amounts, would be prohibited under federal law.
“Whether the state law authorizes it or not, under federal law it is the equivalent of buying or selling heroin, which has very significant criminal penalties,” Thomas said. “So we’re subject to this federal government versus state government argument and I think the horizon looks very troubling.”
While Sessions has announced he will retract the Obama-era memos, the Trump administration hasn’t said to what extent it plans to enforce federal law. For Connecticut, where medical marijuana is legal, it puts both patients and the businesses that distribute it at risk.
Thomas said if the federal government does what Sessions has authorized and enforces the Controlled Substances Act, medical marijuana users would be in violation of the most stringent provision of federal drug laws.