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Attorney General's Action Raises Questions About State's Medical Marijuana Program

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Revoking an Obama administration memo from 2013 that advised local federal prosecutors not to prosecute marijuana use allowed by state law, the Trump administration through Attorney General Jeff Sessions is throwing a chill over the state's new medical cannabis program.

"I think it's terrifying," Lu Randall, of Autism Connection, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday.

Randall says medical marijuana recommended by a doctor is essential for many children with autism and epilepsy -- as well as for other individuals who qualify under the state's new law.

"Forty percent of the people with autism have seizure disorders. A lot of our parents and young adults need to use something different. Nothing's worked before, and to suddenly have something that's been legalized in Pennsylvania ripped away from them is dangerous," Randall said.

Here's the problem.

Federal law still prohibits marijuana use in all forms, while a majority of states like Pennsylvania have legalized medical marijuana.

Put simply, Congress has failed to change federal law, so federal prosecutors can still charge – under federal law – those who use marijuana.

"I really hope that doesn't happen," says Randall. "I can't see criminalizing parents of kids with disabilities because that's criminalizing the person with the disability themselves and taking away an option that they might really need to live."

The action by Sessions also troubles hunters and gun-owners who need medical marijuana because, federally, the use of that could give federal prosecutors a legal basis to take away their guns.

Asked if federal prosecutors should prosecute gun owners who use medical marijuana, Kim Stolfer, of Firearm Owners Against Crime, was blunt.

"No, I don't believe they should, because it's being prescribed by a doctor," Stolfer said.

Stolfer says the impact of Sessions' action is far-reaching.

"It's not just guns. You can't be around ammunition. You can't have a license to carry. You can't get it renewed. You lose your right to self-defense," he adds.

For parents of children with disabilities like autism or epilepsy, or those with cancer, or hunters or firearms owners who simply want protection in their home, the notion that local U.S. attorneys would criminalize medical marijuana is frightening.

In response for a statement, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said his office would "vigorously enforce federal law," adding this.

"This office will continue to deploy all prosecutorial tools at our disposal to protect the citizens of western Pennsylvania from those individuals and criminal organizations which traffic in all illegal controlled substances, including marijuana."

When asked for a simple clarification -- does this mean Brady will or will not prosecute parents and medical marijuana users? – there was no direct answer to that yet.

"I'd rather see people prosecuted for things like violent crime and opiates," says Randall.

In a strongly worded letter to Sessions, Gov. Tom Wolf told the Attorney General, "We do not need the federal government getting in the way of Pennsylvania's right to deliver them relief through our new medical marijuana program."

"If you seek to further disrupt our ability to establish a legal way to deliver relief of medical marijuana of our citizens, I will ask the Attorney General of Pennsylvania to take legal action to protect our residents and state sovereignty."

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