Jeff Sessions' Marijuana Comments Went Too Far, But What He's Getting At Is Not Outrageous

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in front of law enforcement in Richmond, Virginia this week, and the topic turned to drug use. The former Alabama senator had Harold and Kumar fans going wild after he said marijuana was “slightly less awful” than heroin. Let's take a look the context.

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.

I don't agree that a crackdown on marijuana use is good policy, especially when the plant is being slowly but surely legalized in state after state. There has been positive research and experiences surrounding medical marijuana, and on the scale of addictions to drugs, marijuana is much better than heroin. What I don't agree with is the outrage army lighting itself ablaze.

The New York Daily News chimed in with, “Jeff Sessions calls for return ”just say no“ policies, slams marijuana use”. Across the board, mostly, the media and normal people alike are slamming these statements. Why does the debate on drug use always have to turn sour whenever marijuana is brought up? Why are some people, to borrow a phrase from a former president, such bitter clingers to weed?

Robert DuPont, president of the Institute on Behavior and Health and first director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, penned an op-ed correlating the legalization of marijuana across the board as adding to the opioid epidemic and increasing our drug abuse problem. The facts show that you cannot overdose on marijuana, but you can have a greater exposure to tar since pot smokers inhale longer than tobacco smokers.

Marijuana use can also lead to lung infections, bronchitis, and other lung-related illnesses. According to the NIDA,

the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs and are, like marijuana, also typically used before a person progresses to other, more harmful substances." In other words, not all marijuana users become junkies, but many junkies start out with pot.

Policies on drug legalization should be established after Sessions and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price have extensive discussions with the medical and health community at large, after Congress has rational discussions on bills that can be passed into law, and after voters have their say in their individual states.

Perhaps Sessions poorly phrased his statements since Virginia has seen a 40 percent increase in those seeking substance abuse, and Richmond has had 158 heroin overdoses since 2007, more than anywhere else in the Commonwealth. So forgive our Attorney General for maybe being rhetorically extreme, but don't misinterpret his speech as race-related, lacking common sense, or, as he put it, “unfashionable.”

It would be refreshing for the national discussion on marijuana to stop casting out those who aren't going along with the Woodstock groupthink, and instead listen to all sides of the aisle to form solid law.

View Comments(2 comments)
Paul KatzThe attorney general should be for de-listing cannabis from the schedule under Federal law.  that is preferable to failing to enforce a law on the books. the failure to enforce paradigm creates disrespect for the law, and creates too much discretion in the AG.  Let the states work through this issue without interference from the feds
Rob JohnsonThis is the piece of his statement that may be outrage worthy: "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. "I would be more than happy to forgive the Attorney General of his "extreme rhetoric" if he were to refute the allegations he made against cannabis. They are unfounded accusations and he should provide clarity as to why he made them. It seems as though you have implied that Attorney General Sessions was under the impression that cannabis was contributing to these numbers: " Virginia has seen a 40 percent increase  in those seeking substance abuse, and Richmond has had 158 heroin  overdoses since 2007, more than anywhere else in the Commonwealth (no cite)"? Did you mean to imply he had seen them? Or any State's numbers of increased deaths due to any of the traditional illicit substances, illegal and legal, with the exception of cannabis, which is not responsible for any deaths? Have you spoken with his office? There is, admittedly, some "extreme" outrage in response to all things cannabis. Prohibition is counter to liberty and leads to conflicts of resource. Lacking, or false competition follows. Where there's scarcity and threat of containment, there will be fear. See Yoda.  And as the forced prohibition of free speech has shown to brew discontent and civil disobedience, combined with political movement (Donald Trump - 45th President of the United States) teaming together factions of varying personalities and aesthetics, forced prohibition of the freedom to consume at will has created the same. There's always going to be a few loudmouths. Freedom of self-determination and from direct harm via others is all we should ask of each other as US Citizens (Maybe throw in some highways, airports, etc, but limited and let States go a bit further on their own). If someone using opiates robs/rapes/kills, put them in jail. If someone using cannabis robs/rapes/kills, put them in jail. To say that cannabis legalization would somehow indirectly harm others and therfore we should hold cannabis/cannabis users accountable is a communist argument. Blaming others for your own choices is not American. Putting someone in a cage that has never directly harmed you is not American. Legalize choice and competition. That's American. Repeal CSA.