- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2017

A bipartisan group of congressmen have asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to explain why the Justice Department is dragging its feet more than a year after promising to eliminate barriers preventing researchers from studying marijuana’s potential medical benefits.

The congressmen voiced their concerns Wednesday in a letter to Mr. Sessions after The Washington Post reported earlier this month that the Drug Enforcement Administration has neither approved nor denied dozens of applications filed in the past year by researchers seeking special approval to study marijuana, a Schedule 1 plant outlawed under federal law but legalized in one form or another in 29 states and counting.

“The Post claims this is because the Justice Department will not give the ‘sign-off to move forward’ on processing these applications,” the lawmakers wrote. “Quite simply, we would like to know whether this is true, and, if so, we would like to know the rationale for this decision.”

The DEA agreed last August to start accepting applications to grow cannabis for medical and scientific research purposes, the congressmen noted, but have failed so far to issue a single license, The Post reported.

“The purpose of our letter is threefold: first, we wish to establish the veracity of this article’s claims,” wrote the lawmakers. “Second, if the article’s claims are true, we would like to know the rationale behind the Department of Justice’s decision. Finally, we would like to encourage you to proceed with rapidity on the DEA’s permitting process, as we believe it is in keeping with President Trump’s campaign promises, and the best interests of the American people.

“It is worrisome to think that the Department of Justice, the cornerstone of American civil society, would limit new and potentially groundbreaking research simply because it does not want to follow a rule,” they added.

The letter was signed by Reps. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican; Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican; Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat; and Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, and was first published Wednesday by Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, an advocacy group favoring legalized cannabis.

The Justice Department confirmed receiving the letter when reached Thursday but declined to comment further.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states and D.C., and recreational or “adult use” marijuana is allowed in nine states and the nation’s capital.

Mr. Trump said on the campaign trail that marijuana legalization should be decided on a state-by-state basis, but his attorney general is among the plant’s loudest critics on Capitol Hill and has stoked fears of a nationwide crackdown.

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