Congress can’t vote on cannabis anymore because of a man named Pete Sessions.
Have you ever wondered why the government seems to be moving at a snail’s pace when it comes to marijuana legislation? You may not have heard of Pete Sessions, but he’s one of the leading anti-cannabis lawmakers in the United States. Before you ask, no, he is not, in fact, related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But Congress can’t vote on cannabis anymore because of this man.
Pete Sessions is a Republican Congressperson from Texas. Currently, he serves as Chairman of the House Rules Committee. That position gives him a lot of power over what legislation makes it to the House floor.
As he describes it on his website: “The House Rules Committee has important oversight responsibilities including oversight of the rules of the House, the House’s internal organization, the Congressional budget process, the ethics process, and relations between Congress and the Executive and Judicial branch.”
Ultimately, all this responsibility gives him the power to dictate what does and does not reach a Congressional vote. And he isn’t shy about this power.
“The Rules Committee assignment has allowed me to use my experience and personal values to influence every piece of legislation before it reaches the House floor,” his website says.
Sessions’ personal influence on legislation is particularly evident when it comes to cannabis law. As Tom Angell reported, he has blocked every piece of weed-related legislation from going to a vote in the House for at least the past two years. To put it plainly, Congress can’t vote on cannabis anymore because of this man.
The last time the full House voted on a piece of cannabis legislation was May 2016. That’s when representatives approved a proposal to give veterans access to medical marijuana as part of VA healthcare.
Since then, nothing. Sessions has successfully managed to block all national cannabis legislation from going to a vote on the House floor.
Pete Sessions shares more with Attorney General Jeff Sessions than just a last name. Both of them are outspoken opponents of cannabis. More specifically, they both regularly spout anti-weed propaganda that’s not at all consistent with research, science, or data.
Much of his speech was devoted to blaming opioid addiction on cannabis, rather than on the prescription painkillers being pushed by Big Pharma.
“Where do they start?” Sessions asked about those who end up hooked on opioids. “If it’s marijuana, we ought to stand up and be brave in the medical community to say this political direction is not right.”
He went on to suggest that legal cannabis is the source of addiction in the U.S.
“If addiction is the problem and we have marketers of addiction that include marijuana . . . we ought to call for it what it is,” he said.
Unfortunately for Sessions, none of his beliefs about weed are backed up by data. For starters, more and more researchers are moving away from the idea that weed is a “gateway drug.” In fact, even the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances.”
This is especially true when it comes to opioid abuse. Despite what Pete Sessions may say, cannabis could actually be a cure for opioid addiction. For example, a 2016 study found that cannabis may help treat addiction to opioids and alcohol. Researchers went so far as to call cannabis “an exit drug.” They said weed can help people ease off harmful substances like highly-additive opioid painkillers.
Sessions’ comments about weed earlier this week are alarming. The most obvious problem is that they were based more on fear-mongering myths than any actual research.
But beyond that, the real problem is that Sessions holds so much power over national legislation. In his role as Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions plays a huge behind-the-scenes role in dictating what does and does not make it to the House floor.
It appears that his irrational and paranoid fear of cannabis is one of the main reasons that Congress can’t vote on cannabis anymore. The full House hasn’t voted on meaningful cannabis legislation for the past two years.
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