jeff sessions marijuana cannabis

The Sports Cannabis Movement Should Not Fear Jeff Sessions

Multiple reasons have been offered up over the years as ‘justification’ for prohibiting cannabis in professional sports. One of the most common ones is that ‘cannabis is illegal’ and so, therefore, leagues must prohibit it. That ‘justification’ has become more problematic for league prohibitionists in recent years due to the spread of cannabis reform across the country and globe. Reform opponents still use the talking point, but it’s less valid with every passing year.

Another ‘justification’ that has been offered up over the years is that cannabis is harmful to players’ health. The ‘player safety’ argument has been watered down over the years as more and more studies have found that not only is cannabis safer than many other substances that leagues embrace (alcohol, pharmaceuticals, etc.), but that cannabis has the potential to treat all types of conditions, ailments, and injuries that professional athletes experience.

The latest talking point used by league officials, and even some player union reps, is that cannabis reform cannot occur in professional sports because of fears of what United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions might do. The ‘Jeff Sessions boogeyman argument’ is a stretch at best. While Jeff Sessions may go after large cannabis companies or even smaller cannabis companies, it would be unheard of for the federal government to take action against a professional athlete who has THC metabolites in their system.

The Uncle Cliffy team has discussed this a number of times on this blog (herehereherehere, and here). The talking point was flimsy at best in previous months but recently became completely moot when Jeff Sessions made it clear that the federal government won’t go after ‘routine cases’ dealing with cannabis, let alone go after a professional athlete for consuming cannabis. Jeff Sessions stated the following late last week, per Marijuana Moment:

“We’re not going to be able, even if we desired, to take over state enforcement of routine cases that might occur,” he said, referring to the growing number of states that have legalized cannabis. “Federal agents are highly paid, highly trained, and they work on cases involving cartels, international organizations, major distribution networks, large amounts of cash. And they deal with criminal organizations, RICO-type cases. And we’re not out there prosecuting those cases every day.”

League cannabis prohibition policies have nothing to do with international crime organizations, major distribution networks, RICO-cases, or large amounts of cash. They deal entirely with prohibiting professional athletes from having THC metabolites in their systems due to prior cannabis use. Claiming that Jeff Sessions’ opposition to cannabis is ‘justification’ for keeping cannabis prohibition in place in pro sports is not only ridiculous and unfounded, it’s harmful.

Players are having their careers ruined and their lives harmed because of league cannabis prohibition policies. Players who are penalized for cannabis also see their families deal with a tremendous amount of stigma too, which is very sad on many levels. League cannabis policies should be based on compassion and science, and not the outdated political views of a handful of people.

Professional athletes need to stand up to those that wish to drag their feet on reform via unfounded claims, such as that Jeff Sessions might go after a professional athlete if leagues remove cannabis form their banned substances lists. The National Hockey League (NHL) does not list cannabis on its list of banned substances, and Jeff Sessions has never gone after any NHL player, nor does the Uncle Cliffy team expect him to do so. The same would be true for other sports leagues if they followed the NHL’s lead. It’s time for leagues and player union reps to stop the delay tactics and free the plant!

jeff sessions marijuana cannabis

Should The Sports Cannabis Movement Be Worried About Jeff Sessions’ Recent Actions?

This week the cannabis community experienced one of the biggest highs and one of the biggest lows in recent months. On Monday California launched adult-use cannabis sales via dozens of dispensaries spread across the state. By all accounts, the rollout of adult-use sales was a success in California, with no issues being reported.

But unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived, as later in the week United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would be rescinding an Obama-era policy that had provided protection for states that had legalized cannabis. The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the cannabis industry and activism movement, with many advocates wondering if it would lead to a crackdown by the federal government.

As it stands right now, the rescinding of the policy (known as the Cole memo) has not resulted in any changes in enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition. That may change in the future, but for now, things are the same as they were before the announcement in regards to federal interference in legal cannabis states. Again, that could change in the future, but the Uncle Cliffy team hopes that proves not to be the case.

Resistance to the announcement was very swift. Members of Congress, state and local lawmakers, and cannabis activists across the country made it very clear that not only do they oppose the decision by Jeff Sessions but also that they would relentlessly fight any federal enforcement in legal states. What does the announcement specifically mean for the sports cannabis movement? Will the sports cannabis movement be harmed by the change in policy? Should professional athletes be worried that they could become targets of federal enforcement?

League officials have regularly cited federal prohibition as justification for continued cannabis prohibition in professional sports. The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) specifically cited Jeff Sessions’ opposition to cannabis as to why they would not support any changes to NBA league policy at this time. That stance was expressed prior to the recent announcement by Jeff Sessions, so it’s likely safe to assume that the NBPA will continue to support the status quo of testing players for cannabis use, and suspending them when they are found to have THC metabolites in their system.

As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out in the past, no player in the history of professional sports has ever been arrested by the federal government for a failed drug test due to cannabis use. It is absurd for anyone to suggest that professional athletes should be tested for cannabis use because of fears related to federal cannabis prohibition. It is extremely illogical to think that because an athlete has THC metabolites in their system that they will become the target of federal cannabis enforcement.

Professional athletes should not be scared by the recent announcement by Jeff Sessions, just as they shouldn’t have been scared by past anti-cannabis comments made by Jeff Sessions and other members of the Trump administration. Cannabis prohibition is just as harmful to society and professional athletes today as it was prior to Jeff Sessions’ announcement, and therefore the effort to free the plant MUST continue.

The sports cannabis movement should not only be unswayed by Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement, it should push forward with more passion now than ever before. Professional athletes need to continue to speak out in support of cannabis reform in sports and society and continue to refuse to stand by as people have their careers and lives ruined due to consuming a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Onward!

jeff sessions marijuana cannabis

Will Jeff Sessions’ Cannabis Statements Lead To Reform In Pro Sports?

Back in March of this year Bleacher Report posted an article which described fears among National Football League (NFL) players that the Trump administration would crackdown on players that consume cannabis. The fears arose due to anti-cannabis comments made by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and then White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Mr. Spicer hinted at ‘greater enforcement’ of federal cannabis laws, and Jeff Sessions stated the following at the time, per Politico:

“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said during an exchange with reporters at the Justice Department. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.”

“We’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said. “States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

The Uncle Cliffy team pointed out at the time that while it’s possible that the federal government could target a pro athlete for personal cannabis use, such a move would be unprecedented, and was highly unlikely.  We felt that it was much more likely that the cannabis comments and news coming out of the White House earlier this year were more rhetoric than anything. By making such comments the Trump administration, and likely sports league officials, knew that it will create a chilling effect that would possibly slow down reform efforts, or convince advocates to abandon their efforts altogether.

Jeff Sessions’ staunch opposition to cannabis reform was also cited by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) in its response to the newly found support for cannabis reform by former head of the NBA David Stern last month. Per NBA.com:

“I think its fair to say we have to be mindful that given the current administration and Sessions’ comments on his view, that it’s a gateway drug, it wouldn’t be prudent for any changes to be made until we know what the current DOJ has to say about this.” – Michele Roberts, Executive Director of the NBPA

NBA and NFL players have every right to feel however they want about cannabis reform in pro sports, but they should not let the scare tactics of cannabis opponents like Jeff Sessions be the sole reason to oppose meaningful reform. The Trump administration has yet to go after a professional athlete for cannabis consumption, and the Uncle Cliffy team feels that such a move is very unlikely. Sessions’ previous comments were just empty political rhetoric, proven by his flip flop yesterday when testifying before a Congressional committee, as covered by Forbes:

Obama-era guidance that allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference remains in effect, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday during a congressional hearing. He also conceded that cannabis is not as dangerous as heroin and that a current budget rider prevents the Department of Justice from prosecuting people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

“Our policy is the same, really, fundamentally as the Holder-Lynch policy, which is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes,” Sessions said, referring to his predecessors as attorney general during the Obama administration.

Professional athletes need to focus on what is right, just, and compassionate, and not be distracted by the words of politicians. League officials can no longer hide behind the ‘cannabis consumption may result in federal prosecution’ scare tactic to keep players from standing up for what’s right. Cannabis prohibition has failed. That is true in professional sports just as it is true in society.

Cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on racial minority communities, and league cannabis prohibitions perpetuate institutional racism. Every professional athlete should oppose such a policy. Suffering players should be allowed to use a safer, effective medicine like cannabis, no matter where they live. Only time will tell if the recent comments by Jeff Sessions will sway players and league officials, but it is the sincere hope of the Uncle Cliffy team that it proves to be the case sooner rather than later. Free the plant!

free the plant marijuana cannabis

Pro Athletes Should Not Be Deterred by Federal Anti-Cannabis Comments

News broke this week that Steve Cook, described by the Associated Press as ‘a zealous prosecutor who was crucial in writing the Justice Department’s new policy encouraging harsher punishments for criminals,’ has turned his attention towards cannabis. No details were released as to what exactly that means for the cannabis community, but given Mr. Cook’s background, the news does not appear to be a good thing.

The news comes after anti-cannabis comments were made by members of the Trump Administration earlier this year. In February White House press secretary Sean Spicer stated that he expects ‘greater enforcement’ of federal cannabis prohibition laws. In the same month Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the following comments, per Politico:

“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said during an exchange with reporters at the Justice Department. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.”

“We’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said. “States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

Jeff Sessions also stated the following during a speech to state attorney generals, also earlier this year:

“I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store. Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse? Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that has been made out there. It’s just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits.”

These types of comments have caused a lot of anxiety in the professional sports world were current and retired athletes have been making a serious push to reform cannabis policies in sports leagues. Some media articles have reported that the anti-cannabis comments made by members of the Trump administration have made some athletes think twice about speaking out and supporting reform for fear of persecution. The Uncle Cliffy team can understand that these comments sound scary, but continues to encourage athletes to keep pushing forward.

While it’s possible that the federal government could target a pro athlete for personal cannabis use, such a move would be unprecedented, and is highly unlikely. It is much more likely that the cannabis comments and news coming out of the White House are more rhetoric than anything. By making such comments the Trump administration, and likely sports league officials, knows that it will create a chilling effect that will possibly slow down reform efforts, or convince advocates to abandon them altogether.

The fact remains that cannabis is no more or less prohibited at the federal level and in most sports leagues than it was prior to these comments and news being published. Do they increase or decrease the odds of a player being unfairly sanctioned by the league they play in? Of course not. Players are still going to be targeted in the future, just as they have been in the past until cannabis prohibition ends in professional sports.

The use of scary rhetoric is nothing new when it comes to keeping cannabis prohibition in place. Anti-cannabis statements have been used for decades by opponents in an attempt to dishearten people’s advocacy. Sadly, it often works. Many advocates feel that it’s too much of an uphill battle and there is too much to risk so they remain silent. This cannot happen in the sports cannabis movement. Athletes need to proceed onward and continue to fight for justice and compassion.

If athletes stay quiet and let fear tactics win, prohibition will remain in place. Suffering athletes like Seantrel Henderson from the Buffalo Bills will continue to be punished by the NFL, despite the fact that Seantrel’s use is entirely for medical purposes. Pro sports leagues will continue to perpetuate institutional racism by punishing players for cannabis arrests away from their team, even though mathematical data clearly shows that law enforcement arrests minorities at a disproportionate rate compared to Caucasians. As long as prohibition remains in place, athletes will continue to be punished for using a substance that is 114 times safer than alcohol while leagues simultaneously embrace alcohol, and with it, demonstrate a level of hypocrisy that should never be tolerated.

“Professional athletes need to keep pushing forward and keep calling for reform in leagues that prohibit cannabis use. Advocating for cannabis reform is not always easy, but it is always noble, and with the truth on our side we will eventually prevail and get these leagues on the right side of history.” said Cliff Robinson.

jail arrest marijuana cannabis

Will Donald Trump Crackdown On Pro Athletes That Consume Cannabis?

The Uncle Cliffy team recently posted an article which discussed anti-cannabis comments made by members of the federal government. Specifically, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions made comments suggesting that ‘greater enforcement’ of federal cannabis prohibition could be on the way. The statements sent shock waves throughout the cannabis community, and rightfully so. The Trump administration is comprised of many long time cannabis opponents, including Jeff Sessions himself, so hints of policy changes should be taken very seriously.

An article by Bleacher Report indicated that the anti-cannabis comments also caused a stir in professional sports league circles. The article did not provide specific names, but referenced ‘several veteran players, agents and team officials’ from the NFL that expressed strong fears about an NFL player being targeted by the federal government for cannabis use. The article also suggested that NBA players could become high profile targets too.

“Stay away from marijuana at all costs. This isn’t about the NFL any longer. This is about the government coming after you.” stated an unnamed ‘higher-profile NFL agent’ according to the article. It is understandable why players and/or their agents would be concerned about federal prohibition. Federal prohibition is no joking matter. People have been arrested on numerous occasions for possessing cannabis on federal property, and it is estimated that as many as 20,000 people are sitting in prisons right now across America for non-violent, cannabis-only offenses.

But what are the odds of a player who is consuming cannabis in a private setting becoming the target of a federal investigation, especially in a state that has voted to legalize cannabis? Cannabis is no more or less illegal at the federal level now than it was before Trump took office. The federal government going after a player for consuming cannabis is technically possible, but far from likely as history has shown. Such a move would be unprecedented.

A professional athlete being penalized by their respective league for failing a drug test is exponentially more likely to occur. Athletes and their agents should certainly be concerned with federal prohibition, and should monitor for any changes in federal policy or enforcement (as every informed citizen should). They should also fight for reform in society in order to help end cannabis prohibition against responsible adults where it exists.

Federal prohibition as it relates specifically to professional athletes needs to be put into perspective. Cannabis consumption is legal in certain jurisdictions in America, and while it’s still illegal at the federal level, there is currently federal legislation (Farr-Rohrabacher amendment) and case law in place that prevents the federal government from using funds to enforce federal prohibition in states where medical cannabis is legal and the person is in compliance with state law. The measure expires at the end of next month, but is currently in effect and will hopefully be extended. 71% of Americans do not want federal laws enforced in states where voters have legalized cannabis for medical and/or adult use.

Cannabis is of course legal to possess and consume in 8 states, and D.C.. Numerous members of Congress from legal states have made it clear they will not cooperate with a crackdown on personal consumers, similar to the scenario being discussed in the Bleacher Report article. All of this will never 100% guarantee that a professional athlete will not become the target of a federal investigation and prosecution, but athletes and their agents need to put the threat of that happening into perspective. Under no circumstances should league officials be fanning the flames of fear that are popping up among athletes and their agents. To do so is harmful to the greater conversation that is going on regarding cannabis reform in professional sports, which is a conversation that MUST keep moving forward.

Athletes are adults and it is up to each individual to decide their actions, and from a purely compassionate, social justice, and wellness standpoint, the Uncle Cliffy team supports athletes making the safer choice and consuming cannabis in a responsible fashion. In addition to fighting prohibition in society, Uncle Cliffy encourages professional athletes to fight hard to end prohibition in professional sports. Whereas case law, federal legislation, and state legalization laws provide some protections for athletes outside of competition, there are zero protections for athletes in leagues that prohibition cannabis. Professional athletes need to recognize that fact, and do everything they can to fix it.

If a player like Seantrel Henderson from the Buffalo Bills consumes medical cannabis in a legal state, they are allowed to do so without fear of prosecution, at least until the Farr-Rohrabacher amendment expires. But that same consumption will later get that athlete suspended by the NFL. In Seantrel’s case, suspended for approximately 10 games.

Even after Seantrel Henderson serves his suspension, cannabis will still likely be prohibited in the NFL. Seantrel uses medical cannabis to treat a condition (Crohn’s disease) that he will have to live with the rest of his life Multiple surgeries make other pain management treatments not an option for Mr. Henderson. As such current NFL policy is essentially forcing Seantrel to either continue to play and suffer needlessly, or be forced into retirement. Athletes’ attention should definitely be focused on federal cannabis policy, but not at the expense of also keeping focus on the harms of cannabis prohibition in professional sports, and keeping pressure on the leagues to get on the right side of history. The Trump administration’s approach to cannabis policy warrants a lot of criticism, but it has yet to truly change anything that wasn’t already in place prior to the last election.

Athletes should be judged by their athletic abilities, how they perform in competition, and by their moral character. Athletes should not be judged based off of how much THC they have in their system. League policies need to be based on science, and not the personal political views of league officials. The National Hockey League (NHL) has proven that cannabis can be removed from a professional sports league’s banned substance list without issues. Instead of athletes ‘avoiding cannabis at all costs’ Uncle Cliffy encourages athletes to stand up and be heard, and to fight cannabis prohibition head-on. The Uncle Cliffy team will continue to fight to free the plant and fight for the rights of those that consume cannabis, and urges athletes and people that live an active lifestyle to do the same!

image via ACLU

pistil point cannabis

Uncle Cliffy On Recent Federal Anti-Cannabis Statements

On Thursday, February 23rd White House press secretary Sean Spicer stated that he expects ‘greater enforcement’ of federal cannabis prohibition laws. Mr. Spicer was speaking at a White House press briefing, and indicated that the ‘greater enforcement’ would be directed at states that have voted to legalize cannabis for adult use (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts).

Sean Spicer stated the following about opioids and cannabis, “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.” Mr. Spicer stated at the time that it would be up to the Department of Justice to decide how to deal with federal cannabis enforcement. The Department of Justice did not comment at the time, but United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has since made statements about federal cannabis policy.

Jeff Sessions is a longtime cannabis reform opponent, having once supported a bill that would have resulted in some cannabis convictions being punishable by execution. As recently as April 2016 Jeff Sessions had indicated that he didn’t think that cannabis consumers were good people. So it comes as no surprise to see Jeff Sessions make the following statements this past Monday, per Politico:

“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said during an exchange with reporters at the Justice Department. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.”

“We’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said. “States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

In a speech to state attorney generals today Jeff Sessions also stated the following:

“I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store. Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse? Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that has been made out there. It’s just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong. But at this point in time you and I have a responsibility to use our best judgement, that which we’ve learned over a period of years and speak truth as best we can.”

The opinions expressed by Mr. Spicer and Mr. Sessions are not based upon facts. As NORML points out, “Marijuana legalization has not lead to increased crime or violence, but rather is associated with lowered youth use rates and access, increased tax revenue, and fewer arrests of otherwise law abiding American citizens.” A crackdown by the federal government is not only unwarranted for the reason Sean Spicer expressed (fictitious increased violence), but it would push customers from a regulated market back into an unregulated one which could actually increase the risk of a cannabis consumer being exposed to violent situations.

Cannabis policy needs to be based on science, not political rhetoric. Mr. Sessions’ attempt to tie cannabis legalization to the opioid crisis is not just wrong, it’s harmful. Multiple studies have shown that increased access to cannabis results in less opioid use. A federal crackdown would lead to more people using opioids, which is a scenario that the Trump administration claims to want to avoid. If the Trump administration truly felt that way, the last thing it should want to do is crackdown on legal cannabis states.

On the campaign trail candidate Donald Trump stated that he would leave cannabis policy up to the states. Voters in 8 states have spoken loud and clear that they think that prohibition has failed, and that it’s time for a more sensible approach to cannabis policy. Cannabis legalization is working by every measure in states where it exists, and there is zero upside to ‘greater enforcement’ of federal prohibition. Poll results that were released on the same day as Spicer’s comments (February 23rd) found  that 71% of respondents did not want to see federal enforcement of cannabis prohibition in states that have voted to legalize cannabis for adult use. The Uncle Cliffy team hopes that president Trump will stand by his campaign promise to respect states rights, and and allow legal states to proceed without federal intervention.