Jerry Mettille prepares to extract cannabinoid oil from marijuana buds at the In Grown Farms LLC medical marijuana grow house near Freeport, Illinois Tuesday, September 13, 2016.

Kevin E. Schmidt

States' rights be damned. 

Those are the Cliffs Notes of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' letter to Congress that could undermine burgeoning medical marijuana programs in Iowa and Illinois.

In a letter to Congress made public last week, Sessions sought the lifting of protections from federal prosecution for state-run programs. And the entire basis for Sessions' argument for a federal crackdown flies in the face of accepted science.

No surprises there.

Sessions talks of a "drug crisis." He mentions spiking crime. And likens state-licensed growers to "dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives."

Apparently, the U.S. attorney general isn't one for nuance.

The "drug crisis" Sessions hits has nothing to do with medical marijuana. It's an opiate epidemic that's overtaking small-town America, birthed by the medical industries' over-reliance on powerful pain killers. Heroin has become the fallback for those whose prescriptions run out. By linking the opiate epidemic to state-run pot programs, Sessions is giving voice to an outdated, flatly false narrative that's militarized police and ruined millions of lives.

But, perhaps, it's even more shocking that Sessions' apparent desire for crackdown would do real harm to so many Iowans and Illinoisans. From veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress to those battling cancer, the clinical application of marijuana is all but established fact.

It's these people whom Sessions hopes to rob of valuable treatment. And, ironically, his backward policy would leave many with few options but the very prescription drugs that actually are damaging communities. 

The U.S. attorney general has been all over the map on state's rights and the 10th Amendment. One day, he's shouting from the rooftops about the importance of local control. The next, he's seeking a federal crackdown.

It all boils down to whether he personally supports the state-level policy. Such inconsistency smacks of a lack of principle.

It would be an understatement to call Illinois' medical marijuana program cautious. The state's multi-year pilot program was rolled out slowly. Only now is it getting legitimately established. Iowa's program is downright prudish, considering the growing scientific consensus on pot's medical value. Just this year, did lawmakers finally OK a licensing program for growers, and this program is only for the oil extracted from the plant.

To hear Sessions tell it, both states are slinging joints to toddlers. 

Some states are certainly testing the feds. Colorado and Washington state have both adopted full-fledged legalization, an effort designed to address draconian laws that sent a disproportionate number of young, black men to prison. Many others have followed suit. More than half the states in the country now tout a medical or recreational program.

In short, the Nixonian drug war is heading toward its rightful home, the trash heap of misguided policy. 

Marijuana's place in society has changed drastically in the past decade. So, too, has the public's opinion on it, polls show. 

Thousands of Iowans and Illinoisans benefit from the state-run programs. And thousands more stand to as research continues to legitimate its place as a viable treatment for those in pain.

But Jeff Sessions doesn't seem to care about the collateral damage. He's too busy fighting a war that never should have existed. 

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, City Editor Dan Bowerman, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.

39
2
1
2
27