Speaking to the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting, Attorney General Jeff Sessions once again indicated his opposition to the legalization of marijuana, expressing his doubts that cannabis can help to reduce the problem of opioid overdoses plaguing the nation.
Mr. Sessions began his remarks by reiterating his belief that the zero-tolerance around drugs in the 1980s under Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program was the apotheosis of effective federal drug policy.
“I’ve had an interest in over the years. And it took some time, maybe 20 years, but the murder rate was half in America than what it had been. Drug use was down among kids. We had prevention programs in every community and many of you and I spent a lot of my time working, try to create a message of the danger of the illegal drugs and the crime does tend to follow drug use, anybody observed history, they know that’s true.”
Mr. Sessions is convinced that drugs and crime are linked.
“I do not believe that this pop in crime, this increase in crime is necessarily an aberration, a one-time blip. I’m afraid it represents the beginning of a trend and I think what really concerns me in the bottom of all that is also the increase in drugs in America. So, they tend to follow one another. That’s what happened in the ’60s and ’70s. And I think it could happen now.”
Mr. Sessions has been told by President Trump to go after criminal drug trafficking organizations:
“The drug thing, the president also given me a direct order to take charge and lead an effort against drug cartels, international drug cartels and they are growing in strength. And we got so much of it coming right across the Texas border and all across the Mexican border and we can do better there.”
Mr. Sessions for the third time in the address linked drugs to crime:
“My view is that crime does follow drugs. In the ’70s and ’80s, we saw so many lives destroyed by drug abuse and I think today, the drugs are more powerful and addictive and they can destroy lives. Young people had their lives destroyed.”
Mr. Sessions then pivots specifically to marijuana, warning about the ubiquity of legal marijuana harming the nation’s health:
“I am dubious about marijuana. States can pass whatever laws they choose but I’m not sure we’ll be a better healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.“
Mr. Sessions then dismisses the growing scientific consensus that access to marijuana leads to reductions in opiate overdose deaths:
“I see a line in the Washington Post today that I remember from the ’80s. This one was, if you smoke marijuana, it’s a cure for opiate abuse. Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true.”
Mr. Sessions then lumps together cannabis and highly-addictive toxic opioids as drugs that need to be tightly controlled:
“My best view is we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana and we need to crack down effectively on heroin and fentanyl and other drugs and part of the federal leadership will be drug distribution networks, cartels that threaten the very government of nations to our south and less money they extract out of American, less danger they present to their governments and their people and fewer people that are addicted.”
And yet, I guarantee you that in the comments section of this post, somebody will cling to the fading hope that Donald Trump is pro-states’ rights on marijuana and will rein in his Attorney General from conducting any federal interference in the eight states that have legalized adult use of marijuana. Expect justifications like “it’s just talk so far”, “he hasn’t actually done anything yet”, and “at worst, he could only shut down commercial marijuana operations; he can’t touch state-legal home cultivation or personal possession.”
My friends who’ve invested their life savings into a commercial marijuana operation and face possible raids, seizures, and federal prison sentences under Sessions’ Department of Justice take little solace in Sessions’ comments and great offense in “it’ll be like Washington DC grow-and-give” responses to them.