Major Marijuana Opponent Jeff Sessions was Named New U.S. Attorney General

On November 18, President-elect Donald Trump named Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as his attorney general. Sessions will be one of the most conservative U.S. lawmakers to to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official. He is also staunchly opposed to marijuana legalization – ridiculously so. [1]

Sessions is a bit goofy and old-fashioned when it comes to his views on cannabis, to say the very least.

Thirty years ago, when Sen. Sessions was up for a federal judgeship, the soon-to-be attorney general allegedly used the ‘N-word’ and joked during testimony that he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” (Right, because marijuana was what he should have taken offense to…) [2]

Then, in 2014, Sessions said he was “heartbroken” when President Barack Obama told the New Yorker“I don’t think [pot] is more dangerous than alcohol.” To counter the President’s opinion, Sessions responded:

“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless.”

In April of this year, when Sessions spoke at a hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, he devoted much of his energy to calling out what the speakers said were the harms caused by relaxing marijuana laws.

The Senator, who is a member of the caucus, testified about the need to encourage “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.

Yeah, that’s right. If you use marijuana you’re clearly a terrible human being – according to someone who thinks KKK members are “okay.”

Not scared yet? Sen. Sessions is the Senate’s leading opponent of ending mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes. He once said he missed the days when “[t]he federal government led the way with tough sentencing, eliminating parole, targeting dangerous drugs in effective ways, and states and local governments followed.” [3]

I wonder if he doesn’t have an issue with people doing life in prison for using marijuana.

And now he has the power to force states that have legalized marijuana into compliance with federal law – including the 28 states that have legalized its use for medical purposes.

During his campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly expressed that he would leave marijuana policies “up to the states.” If his administration goes back on that promise, it “would create huge political problems they don’t need and will use lots of political capital they’d be better off spending on issues the new president cares a lot more about,” as stated by Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.

Hopefully Trump Will Leave Marijuana Alone

Let’s hope Trump does keep his promise because during current attorney general Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearings, Sessions said that he considered opposition to state-level legalization as a core responsibility of America’s top prosecutor. He told her:

“I hope that you will cease to be silent, because if the law-enforcement officers don’t do this, I don’t know who will. And in the past, attorneys general and other government officials have spoken out and I think kept bad decisions from being made.”

Aaron Herzberg, a cannabis policy expert from California, says:

“Sessions is the worst pick that Trump could have made for attorney general as it comes to the marijuana issues and this selection bodes very poorly for the Trump administration to adopt a marijuana friendly policy.

It appears that he is intent on rolling back policy to the 1980’s Nancy Reagan’s ‘just say no on drugs’ days, he has displayed open hostility to efforts to legalize marijuana.”

Said Angell:

“While the choice certainly isn’t good news for marijuana reform, “I’m still hopeful the new administration will realize that any crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems they don’t need and will use lots of political capital they’d be better off spending on issues the new president cares a lot more about.”

He went on to say that marijuana reform is far more popular with voters than politicians are (in 2014, dog poop, lice, and toenail fungus were more popular than Congress), so “officials in the new administration would do well to take a careful look at the polling data on this issue before deciding what to do.”


[1] Bloomberg

[2] Oregon Live

[3] New York Magazine

The Wall Street Journal

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About Julie Fidler:

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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.

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