Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued a personal campaign to demonize marijuana, calling cannabis a “life-wrecking dependency” that is “only slightly less awful” than heroin in a speech on violent crime in Richmond, Virginia, Wednesday.
Insisting that the federal government should return to a Nancy Reagan-style, 1980s anti-drug campaign – “educating people and telling them the terrible truth” about controlled substances – Sessions conflated the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis, which now claims 140 lives a day, with marijuana, a drug he said will “destroy your life.”
Sessions has no facts on his side. The use of medical pot as a painkiller can provide an alternative to opioids, and many in recovery cite cannabis as lessening the agony of opiate withdrawal. Research published on the federal government’s own DrugAbuse.gov website finds that states with medical marijuana programs have reported “reductions of 16 to 31 percent in mortality due to prescription opioid overdoses, and 28 to 35 percent in admissions for treatment of opioid addiction.”
No matter, Sessions cast his ignorance as bold, “unfashionable” truth-telling. The attorney general’s remarks on marijuana follow:
“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”
Answering reporters’ follow-up questions, Sessions added that, “I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much” and declared himself “dubious” about benefits of smoked marijuana.
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Despite the Drug War saber-rattling, Sessions proceeded to offer a vague note of reassurance on the future of state-legal recreational marijuana. The attorney general said that “much” of the Cole memo – the Obama DOJ guidance deprioritizing federal pot enforcement in states that have legalized – is “valid,” and he recognized that federal law enforcement is “not able to go into a state and pick up the work that police and sheriffs have been doing for decades.”
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