Sessions Kicks The Cannabis Crazy Talk Into High Gear

The attorney general unleashes yet another error-riddled tirade against marijuana

Photo Illustration: Diana Quach
Mar 01, 2017 at 1:33 PM ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to double down on his frenzied, fact-challenged crusade against marijuana, warning of a future where legal weed would stock the shelves of every American supermarket while also mocking science-backed arguments for how cannabis could help combat the country’s growing opioid epidemic.

Sessions delivered his latest broadside to a crowd of attorneys general on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after peddling a series of sensational remarks to reporters about the purported perils of pot use.

“States can pass whatever laws they choose,” Sessions told those assembled at the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting. “But I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.”

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A longtime foe of marijuana use, Sessions then appeared to rip into a Washington Post column published that morning by an expert on marijuana law and policy. In the op-ed, Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver, argued that a growing body of evidence suggested that marijuana could serve as a substitute for opiates to treat chronic pain.

The nation’s top cop, who has signaled that he intends to follow through on the White House’s plans to crack down on states where marijuana is legally sold, was not moved by Kamin’s reasoning. “Give me a break,” Sessions scoffed. “This is the kind of argument that has been out there. [It’s] almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove me wrong.”

Science appears to do just that. A 2016 study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that cases of opiate abuse decreased in legal weed states when individuals substituted marijuana for opioids to treat pain, the Huffington Post reported.

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Such studies, however, are unlikely to sway Sessions’ opinions on pot. Just the day before he invoked the word “violence” repeatedly as he attacked the use and expansion of legal marijuana across the U.S. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” Sessions told reporters at the Department of Justice on Monday, offering no evidence to substantiate the claim. He later implied that “real violence” could be directly tied to the “current levels of THC in marijuana.”

Marijuana advocates have slammed Sessions for the recent remarks. “If the attorney general really cares about public health and safety, he’ll stop relying on ‘alternative facts,'” Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, said in a statement.