Given a chance to clarify comments from Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week suggesting an imminent crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana for adult use, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his opposition to marijuana legalization, citing “real violence” surrounding the legalization of marijuana, concern for the health of America’s youth, and the increased potency of today’s cannabis products.
Speaking after a meeting with the attorney general of Nebraska, one of two states that unsuccessfully sued Colorado at the Supreme Court to overturn marijuana legalization, Mr. Sessions said, “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
Violence around marijuana exists primarily due to its prohibition, of course. You don’t find the sellers of Dos Equis and Corona beers shooting it out in the streets of Mexico. Their products are legal and if there are disputes, they can be settled in court.
Mr. Sessions even underscored this point. “You can’t sue somebody for drug debt; the only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that,” he said.
“I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” Mr. Sessions said, before launching into a revival of the Not-Your-Father’s-Woodstock-Weed scare about super-potent marijuana. “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, and we’re seeing real violence around that.”
Mr. Sessions’ view that marijuana, regardless of potency, leads to “real violence” flies in the face of all scientific understanding of marijuana, says Dr. Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York-Albany and author of Pot & Politics.
“I can point to laboratory studies that are over forty years old that suggest that cannabis does not increase violence,” said Dr. Earleywine on today’s episode (36:01) of The Russ Belville Show. ”Even in situations where the lab has a stooge who is part of the experiment who goes in and irritates these people on purpose, the folks who use cannabis are not the ones who get more violent.”
There was some indication that the administration may keep the Obama-era Cole Memo as a guideline for when federal prosecution of marijuana should occur. However, Mr. Sessions seems to think that violations of that memo were not seriously evaluated by his predecessors. “Most states have some limits on it and, already, people are violating those limits,” Mr. Sessions explained. “We’re going to look at it. … and try to adopt responsible policies.”
“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana. States, they can pass the laws they choose,” Mr. Session concluded. ”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.”