While there are so many facets of the Trump administration that range from infuriating to downright dangerous, one that lands squarely in the middle of that spectrum is Jeff Sessions and his feelings toward drugs and policing in general. Jeff Sessions is a man with southern, old-fashioned ideals through and through. One of these ideals is Sessions’ blatant disdain for marijuana and its legal expansions.
A striking example of his opinion was his praise for Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign (which was a campaign from 1980’s that the Reagan administration believed would curb drug use by encouraging kids and teens to “just say no”) at a senate hearing in April of 2016. He then furthered his stance in the same hearing by making the bold and very incendiary statement that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” This type of rhetoric in modern day America seems ridiculous and unheard of, but this man vehemently believes in these statements he’s made. This is quite worrisome to me considering he is the attorney general of our nation, meaning he oversees the entire Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This means Sessions has the power to translate his views into tangible policy, which could greatly affect how citizens are policed and treated when it comes to small, non-violent drug offenses.
Sessions’ appointment to attorney general arose from Donald Trump’s election to presidency, which is intriguing due to the fact that many states voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on the same day. This brings the total of states that have legalized marijuana to eight, with the District of Columbia having already passed their law back in 2014. Twenty-eight states have medicinal marijuana laws in place. Despite the efforts of the “war on drugs” and the demonization of marijuana in the past, there seems to be a paradigm shift occurring in terms of how the U.S. citizens perceive it. This is evidenced by those states I mentioned earlier passing recreational use and possession laws, as well as a Gallup poll that showed 60 percent of Americans now support the legal usage of marijuana.
Another problem that could arise from Sessions’ comments and general attitude towards marijuana legalization is how it would affect the marijuana industry in general and if it would reverse some of the progress that has already been made. Some of this progress includes the 5.4 billion dollars the industry has accrued, quoted in a November 2016 article from National Public Radio (NPR). In a December 2016 article from Fortune, it entails the amount of tax revenue that the state of Colorado made from the legal marijuana industry, which they then used to fund school construction projects. The total was around 50 million dollars just from an excise tax the state imposed, which the state then required to divert the revenue to funding of schools.
Sessions recently spoke at a panel discussion at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona last Tuesday, April 11 and once again brought up his opinion on marijuana. But this time, he got a little more specific about his disdain for the plant and even furthered his already preposterous rhetoric. This time, he commented on medical marijuana usage, saying it has been “hyped, maybe a little too much” and then followed up with the erroneous claim that marijuana is “only slightly less awful than heroin.” These quotes come from an April 13 article written by the Washington Times.
This man’s old-school attitude toward an issue that has become less taboo over the years and more accepted, especially in the medical community, is scary and a danger to not only certain facets of health care, but the American idea of freedom as well. It is quite divisive to label someone a “bad person” just because of the fact that someone chooses to smoke or use marijuana, especially in states where it is fully legal. Trump campaigned on the idea of returning the rights to the states, especially when it comes to marijuana. Sessions doesn’t seem to agree with that concept, as it seems he wants to re-implement the archaic laws that left many non-violent, small possession drug offenders locked up. Only time will tell if Sessions becomes the hypocrite he is destined to be and takes away state’s rights when it comes to this issue. The hypocrisy here is Sessions and Trump returning rights to states to make their own decisions on a plethora of issues except this one. All is I know is our economy and prisons can not accommodate another “war on drugs”.
Josh Biase can be contacted at Jbiase@kscequinox.com