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U.S. Veterans Find New Hope in the Fight for Medical Marijuana


By Associated Press

(AP) — Military veterans lobbying for an end to federal classification of marijuana as a lethal substance with no redeeming medicinal value may be closer to that goal than ever before, given the midterm election results.

“I did a happy dance when Sessions left,” said Jose Belen, an Army veteran who uses marijuana to mitigate the post-traumatic syndrome disorder diagnosis he received following his 2003 tour of Iraq. “I’m not having unrealistic expectations, but my nature is to be optimistic. And my expectations are, I’m hoping to see the right thing done.”

Between the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives, the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a federal lawsuit led by a 12-year-old girl with epilepsy, the cannabis prohibition drama is set to unfold on multiple fronts.

Traditionally more receptive to legalization than Republicans, Democrats regained the House by margins that are still being tallied in state recounts. In recent years, however, prohibition has been under fire from both parties, with the bipartisan “Cannabis Caucus” — two Dems, two GOP — forming in 2017 to enact more flexible laws. But two powerful Republicans responsible for blocking legislation in committees, Pete Sessions of Texas and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, will not be back in January.

As a result, wrote Deputy Director Paul Armentano of NORML, “it would be political malpractice for the (House Democrats) to not prioritize enacting comprehensive marijuana policy reform in the 116th Congress.”

However, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, staunch marijuana opponent Charles Grassley of Iowa has refused to allow bipartisan legislation to reach the Senate floor for debate. Grassley, 85, isn’t up for reelection until 2022. And Trump’s pick for acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, “boasted about successfully prosecuting cannabis for drug offenses” as a federal prosecutor in Iowa in 2009, said attorney Lauren Rudick.

“But we don’t know if he’s going to share Jeff Sessions’ perspectives today. Things have changed a lot since then, and 50 percent of Americans are living in states where cannabis is legal.”

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

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