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.

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