“Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
This is what Senator Jeff Sessions said during a hearing in April. He also thought it was important to impress on everyone the “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about…”
Election night was a big win for marijuana, where medical and recreational use of the drug was legalized in several states. This has been the trend for some time now and most Americans support ending marijuana prohibition.
Yet, federal prohibition still exists. When Colorado and Washington legalized pot in 2013, President Obama directed then Attorney General Eric Holder not to interfere.
When Obama expressed in a 2014 interview that he didn’t think “marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol” and also suggested science backs up his claim, Sessions was upset by the president’s words, and said so during a senate hearing:
I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension… This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that…
Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that?
“Sessions, by contrast, clearly did his homework,” Reason’s Jacob Sullum sarcastically observed. “He rebutted Obama’s observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol by citing a renowned expert on substance abuse: ‘Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless.”
Yeah, that was actually Sessions’ reasoning. This is Reefer Madness-style paranoia.
Someone this ignorant will be our Attorney General.
When the Obama administration looked into how Ferguson municipalities operate after racially-charged controversy plagued the Missouri city in 2014, the Department of Justice found alarming disparities where minorities had been targeted by local government and law enforcement.
“Crime is rising, and the president blames the police,” Sessions said at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Would AG Sessions not be inclined to even acknowledge police brutality, and instead praise the police without question?
Everything we know about Sessions’ history tells us this is how he will conduct himself.
Robert Everett Johnson praised Sessions’ support of civil asset forfeiture at Roll Call in 2015, “Midway through the committee hearing, he declared that he was ‘very unhappy’ with criticism of civil forfeiture, because in his view ‘taking and seizing and forfeiting, through a government judicial process, illegal gains from criminal enterprises is not wrong.”
Sessions also said that “95 percent” of civil asset forfeitures involve people who have “done nothing in their lives but sell dope.”
You can’t make this up.
And we haven’t even mentioned Sessions’ hardline stance on immigration. Calling our next Attorney General anti-immigrant is not an unfair statement.
In the wake of the announcement of Sessions’ appointment, many are focusing on his controversial racial comments from the 1980s and they are noteworthy considering what we know about the senator’s positions on issues related to race and state oppression that have consumed so much of the news cycle in recent years.
Sessions was certain to have a place in President Trump’s administration. The Alabama senator’s name had been mentioned as a potential secretary of defense, where he would have been preferable to uber-hawks like John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani whose foreign policy views run counter to much of what Trump has espoused.
But now Sessions will have a significant hand in domestic issues, specifically areas where progressives, libertarians and more than a few conservatives believe the country has been making important progress.
Sessions represents a step backward for the country and it’s not unreasonable in this moment to fear the worst. Maybe Trump will surprise us and rein in his Attorney General if he becomes too extreme, or even direct him to take more positive actions.
Maybe he won’t.