Some Utah residents are working overtime to get medical marijuana on the state’s ballot next year. They seem to have just gotten a surprising new Republican ally in their effort – Senator Orrin Hatch.
The state’s senior senator – an octogenarian who is third in line for the presidency – publicly broke ranks with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, GOP leaders and many of his Mormon constituents when he endorsed medicinal marijuana last week. When I caught up with him on an elevator on the Capitol grounds, surrounded by his ever-present security detail, I asked what brought about his evolution on the issue.
“There’s no transformation. I’ve always been for any decent medicine,” Hatch replied without hesitation. “I know that medical marijuana can do some things that other medicines can’t. I’m for alleviating pain and helping people with illness.”
Hatch is among a frustrated set of the nation’s policy makers who are up in arms over a Washington Post report that Sessions’ Justice Department is blocking the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from approving about two dozen proposals for experts to research the effects of marijuana. Not to legalize weed. Not to sell it. Not even to smoke it. Merely to study it – just as is allowed with deadly and highly addictive opioids, booze and even cigarettes – to find out if 38 states and the District of Columbia have made grave mistakes by allowing marijuana to be used either medicinally or recreationally, or whether those states are actually on to something. [Read more at Rolling Stone]