Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a very vocal, longtime opponent of marijuana, once claiming that “good people don’t use marijuana”. His “facts” and beliefs are very rooted in the Reagan administration’s take on drugs, recently stating that the country needs to adopt the “just say no” philosophy of the ‘80s and ‘90s. While Trump repeatedly stated that he believed that states should make their own laws when it comes to marijuana, nominating Jeff Sessions for attorney general seems to be a big step in the opposite direction. In recent weeks, we heard from press secretary Sean Spicer that the administration was going to be cracking down on recreational marijuana. Sessions has also been making statements that imply a similar intention, recently stating that marijuana was responsible for drug violence.
The Error in Comparing Marijuana to Heroin
His most recent comments seem to negate the evidence that has been presented by several states showing that the presence of marijuana in a state has the ability reduce opioid deaths, overdoses and addiction. It’s also been shown to reduce heroin addiction, overdose and use. He claims that marijuana is only slightly less bad than heroin addiction. Thousands of people die every year from opioid and heroin overdoses. No one has ever died from using marijuana. On top of this, research indicates that the only physical side effect of long term marijuana use is a slight increase in the chance of getting gingivitis or gum disease from the smoke. Given the research, calling marijuana only slightly less bad than heroin is not exactly an accurate claim. Especially when it seems to be safer and healthier than tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs, which are all accepted substances by society.
Sessions Calls Treating Opioid Addiction with Marijuana “Stupid”
On Wednesday, he gave a speech to law enforcement, saying, “I’m astonished to hear people suggest we can solve our heroin crisis — have you heard this? — by having more marijuana. I mean, how stupid is that? Give me a break. So we’re going to have to stand up and confront that, tell the truth here. And our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad, that it will destroy your life.” He continues to say that we have too much tolerance for drugs and that’s it’s not recreational when lives are at stake. But the only lives at stake seem to be the ones being saved by marijuana through medical treatment and overdose prevention. Unfortunately, Sessions has also claimed that the medicinal benefits of marijuana are overrated. He said that his office may make adjustments to the Obama administration’s policy of allowing states to determine their own marijuana laws.
Marijuana’s Political History
Marijuana is still regarded as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as heroin, despite the fact that the DEA stated 2 years ago that “heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana.” Marijuana prohibition has a complex political past as the plant was never banned due to being associated with any dangerous behavior, side effects or deaths. In fact, it was placed as a Schedule I drug as a holding place while it was studied by the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. This occurred in the ‘70s during the Nixon administration. The Commission found the plant to be harmless and were hesitant to even recommend a Schedule for it at all. Unfortunately, the political climate did not support this move and the plant has remained on the Schedule I list ever since.
With so many breakthroughs in marijuana reform occurring in the recent past, it’s hard to say which direction things will go in. We will just have to see how the Trump administration plans to move forward.