AG Sessions' Disparaging Comments About Marijuana Are Not Only Wrong - They're A Major Problem

| MAR 17, 2017 | 3:10 PM

 IJR Opinion is an opinion platform and any opinions or information put forth by contributors are exclusive to them and do not represent the views of IJR.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is right about one thing: drug abuse in America is at a crippling height. According to CDC data, deaths from heroin overdoses even surpassed gun deaths in 2015. Sessions, as the new head of the Department of Justice, said Wednesday that marijuana is only “slightly less awful” than heroin.

This adds to his previous jab that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Well, looks like Ted Cruz actually is the devil after all. Jeb Bush, another self-admitted pot smoker, better apologize to his mother a second time.

Trump-appointee Sessions bashed our complacency with newly-legal marijuana and even reupped the infamous “Just Say No” slogan. This fiery opposition to weed has no basis in reality and no place in the policy of our executive branch.

Youth marijuana use has decreased thanks to legalization, and use of other drugs has also gone down. Death due to opioid overdose reduces by 31 percent in states where pot is legal. Peer-reviewed, conclusive evidence shows that marijuana is effective in treating pain, even chronic conditions. Heroin killed 13,000 people in 2015. That’s 13,000 more deaths than pot. We’re supposed to be the party of facts, evidence, and rationality – what happened?

Opposing recreational weed is one thing. Even though the evidence is overwhelming, I’ll even allow “jury is still out” arguments on the medical benefits. What we cannot allow is for our party to be co-opted by anti-reality crusades and misguided tough-on-crime bombast from decades prior. Want to actually be tough on crime? Use facts and conservative policy that has proven to reduce crime and recidivism: abolish mandatory minimum sentences, stop creating criminals for nonviolent offenses, increase the use of drug courts to treat addiction, and reform police practices to keep both communities and officers safe.

Thankfully, Sessions has indicated he does not plan to target states where pot is legal. If they exercised federalism and legalized pot on their own, so be it. Refraining from federal overreach and respecting the Tenth Amendment is great, yes, but it should be expected of a conservative administration. No credit is due here.

There are no shortage of reasons to oppose AG Sessions from a policy standpoint, but naturally Democrats tried to paint him as an ignorant-racist-southerner during his confirmation hearing. Despite this, Republicans (and particularly conservative ones) are under no obligation to back our Attorney General when he flies off the handle and spouts nonsense. Just because he’s tenfold better than former Attorneys General Holder or Lynch isn’t justification.

Sessions’ remarks are indicative of a larger problem in not only conservative policies, but criminal justice as a whole – a problem that should have already taught us our lesson. Locking people up has not solved our drug crisis, it’s made things worse by any measurable standard.

It wasn’t just Republicans who got us here - remember the Clinton Crime Bill? The blame is bipartisan, as should be the solutions, and letting Jeff Sessions get away with blatant falsehoods is not only a disservice to every American affected by drug addiction, but it puts us at risk of exacerbating this heartbreaking epidemic. Work to oppose bad policy, no matter the origin or political party, and help us continue on a path to recovery.

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