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Marijuana On The Record: A Collection of Tone Deaf Remarks From America’s Thought Leaders

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Before we proceed, we’ll confess: Jeff Sessions will be singled out, yet again, in this article. Good journalism shouldn’t be easy. It’s usually a bad sign when you feel the way a bully might feel after he beats up the wimpiest kid on the playground. We would dismiss his opinions and set him loose to hunt Bugs Bunny were it not for one thing: Jeff Sessions is the head of the United States Justice Department. So, with that out of the way…

There actually are a few brave politicians left in Washington. If you’re of the opinion that bravery should, by definition, involve significant personal risk, then you may disagree. That’s a fair point. (Sorry, Jeff Flake. Sorry, Bob Corker.) Small victories are worth noting, though. Thirty-five year old Congressman Matt Gaetz, from Florida’s hyper-pro-Trump 1st district, is one example. As a Republican, he could avoid the issue of cannabis and do just fine, but he is speaking out. (Check it out here.)

Gaetz, unfortunately, is an exception. Older generations can look back fondly upon a time when politicians would respond to questions directly, in plain language. Dodging a question required some creativity, some rhetorical panache. Today, just hearing a clever lie would be a privilege.

Under these conditions, you can’t blame anybody for ignoring someone like Jeff Sessions, but that doesn’t mean we should deny our politicians due credit for the ridiculous things they say about marijuana. In service to the public record, we’ve reprinted some of these remarks below:

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the [Justice] Department to fund particular prosecutions.” United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, regarding a rule that could decelerate the federal government’s efforts to prosecute marijuana crimes inside states where marijuana has been legalized

Jeff Sessions raised no objections to a law, recently passed by Congress, that will severely restrict the Drug Enforcement Agency from simply pausing suspiciously large shipments of opioids – from pharmaceutical companies – within the United States.

Any form of marijuana legalization in our country would be a mistake, ”particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.” United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions

It’s safe to assume that the drug epidemic to which Sessions is referring is the opioid epidemic, a deadly scourge that virtually every social scientist and addiction specialist has linked unequivocally to prescription-opioid dependency – not alcohol, or marijuana, or any other “gateway drug.” (A phrase which, in clinical settings, means nothing). Regarding crime: As a nation, America is in the midst of a long-term drop in violent crime. It is true that, due to a variety of factors, violent crime has increased recently in some metropolitan areas. Marijuana is not among those factors.

“I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana…” –United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions

We would also be astonished to hear that. Nobody is saying that. As pain relief, marijuana use could, potentially, help. Solving the “heroin crisis,” according to most of America’s top specialists in addictive medicine, will require rehabilitation rather than incarceration, increased access to drugs like methadone and suboxone, and strict oversight of the pharmaceutical industry. If Jeff Sessions expressed his support for these measures, we could express some support for him. He has opposed all of these measures.

I thought the KKK was “OK, until I found out they smoked pot.” – United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Uh…

America shouldn’t legalize marijuana, just “so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.” – United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions

In the last 16 years, more than 183,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids. (Legal opioids, in other words. That excludes heroin, entirely.) Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration drug sheet for marijuana reports that no deaths from marijuana overdose have ever been recorded. Ever.

“To prosecute an act that is otherwise lawful under state law, one could make the argument [that] as a matter of policy, we’ve got other priorities we ought to be spending our resources on….With respect to everything else going on in the U.S., this is pretty low priority.” – Alberto Gonzalez, United States Attorney General under President George W. Bush

Another typical response from a Republican administration that…oh wait, that made perfect sense.

Law enforcement would likely first prosecute those in gross violation of federal laws before the average pot smoker––”the same way police go after rapists and murderers before they go after jaywalkers.”  – Ilya Shapiro, a constitutional studies fellow at the CATO Institute, explaining why casual pot smokers shouldn’t necessarily be afraid of the federal government’s draconian marijuana laws.

In fairness, the Cato Institute has taken many reasonable positions on marijuana, but in this instance Ilya Shapiro is offering little reassurance to America’s young minorities. Jaywalkers and pot smokers in some black neighborhoods, for example, are already being arrested at rates 6 to 10 times higher than whites. Rates of marijuana use, between young black men and young white men, are nearly equal. For frame of reference, Shapiro could have asked anybody who has ever visited a college dorm room.

Connor Narciso

The author Connor Narciso

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