Marijuana

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivered Mixed Messages About Marijuana in 2017

We're watching you closer than ever, Jeffy.
We're watching you closer than ever, Jeffy. Shutterstock.com/mark reinstein
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been squatting over state-legalized cannabis industries across the country, pinching out a grumpy loaf of reefer madness every so often. Reported to have said that he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan "were okay until I found out they smoked pot" in the ’80s, Sessions had repeatedly expressed his distaste for the plant and those who support it long before taking office as AG in January.

And just when we think he's retreated back into his hollow tree with the other Keebler elves, news will break about Sessions trying to undermine medical cannabis research or congressional protections for the legal industry, or simply making comments about the plant that don't stack up with science. One group of medical patients and minority owners of cannabis businesses — including a twelve-year-old in Colorado and a former Denver Bronco — sued Sessions over the federal scheduling of cannabis in July, but that hasn't stopped Ol' Jeffy from causing a ruckus.

Here's our summary of Sessions's most annoying marijuana meddling in 2017. We'll get started on next year's list on January 1.

A Thorn From the Beginning
Sessions was the first United States senator to fully support Donald Trump's presidential campaign, so few were surprised as he emerged as Trump's choice for AG...even though plenty were alarmed. Despite uttering such remarks as "Good people don't smoke marijuana" and "We need grownups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized" during a Senate hearing in April 2016, Sessions dodged cannabis questions from his former colleagues during his confirmation hearing in January 2017.

During a National Association of Attorneys General meeting in Washington, D.C., in February, Sessions got his voice back: “I, as you know, am dubious about marijuana. States can pass whatever laws they choose, 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," he said. "I just don’t think that’s going to be good for us, and we’ll have to work our way through that."


In March, the International Business Times reported that a Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor had sent an email to a prosecutor in the Colorado Attorney General’s office seeking pot-related information “for the new administration," including case numbers for several prosecutions relating to marijuana.

Science Denial
In February, Sessions tied cannabis to opiate abuse in a talk with state attorneys general: "Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse? Give me a break," he said. "This is the kind of argument that has been made out there. It's almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that's true. Maybe science will prove I'm wrong, but at this point in time, you and I have a responsibility to use our best judgment, that which we've learned over a period of years, and speak the truth as best we can."

A 2014 study found that annual overdose rates were nearly 25 percent lower in states with medical cannabis than those without them, while a 2013 study from Columbia University also found that states with medical marijuana laws had fewer individuals using opioids.

In August, DEA officials told the Denver Post that the DOJ was preventing it from taking action on more than two dozen official requests to grow cannabis for research purposes. That same month, four congressmen, including Colorado Representative Jared Polis, sent Sessions a letter expressing their concern over the DEA's claims. Even the Brookings Institution called out Sessions, publishing an essay criticizing his "biases on the issue, a division of opinion between him and the president he serves, and a federal government effort to stand in the way of the free conduct of research."


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Herbert Fuego is the resident stoner at Westword, ready to answer all your marijuana questions.
Contact: Herbert Fuego