Anyone hoping to see an end to cannabis prohibition in America can stop holding their breath. Earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions clarified that the Trump Administration has no intention of legalizing marijuana now or in the new future. While speaking at the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington, D.C., Sessions delivered a speech that was riddled with misconceptions about marijuana.
So instead of addressing his remarks as a whole, we've put together an annotated version of the speech with rebuttals, counterpoints and corrections.
"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. I just don’t think that’s going to be good for us, and we’ll have to work our way through that."
Nor do the states that have legalized recreational marijuana. All eight of them have restricted sales to licensed retailers. None of them allow it to be sold at every corner store. And states like Colorado prohibit cannabis retailers from operating within 1,000 feet of schools and other community centers.
So Sessions isn't representing the facts on the ground accurately.
"I see a line in The Washington Post today that I remember from the ’80s. This one was, if you smoke marijuana, it’s a cure for opiate abuse. Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that's true."
That's not an argument. The idea that cannabis could help treat people with opioid addiction is a theory that scientists are testing right now. So far, the results have been positive.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has been reviving the so-called "gateway drug theory" -- the idea that consuming cannabis leads people to abuse harder drugs. That idea has been debunked again and again, but the message hasn't gotten through to The Donald's cabinet yet.
And if you want to hear a truly absurd claim about cannabis from the 1980s, check out this doozy from former President Ronald Reagan.
"Maybe science will prove I’m wrong [about the medicinal benefits of cannabis], 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 truth as best we can."
On the bright side, Sessions is basically saying he is open to reconsidering his position if science proves him wrong.
On the downside, there's no reason to trust his judgment when it comes to marijuana. After all, this is the same Jeff Sessions who once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan "were okay until I found out they smoked pot." And that "good people don't smoke marijuana."
So it's hard to believe that he'll overcome his personal prejudice against cannabis even if faced with overwhelming evidence about its health benefits.
"My best view is that we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana and we need to crack down more effectively on heroin and fentanyl and other drugs. And part of the federal leadership will be drug distribution networks, cartels that threaten the very governments of nations to our south.”
The bright side here is that Sessions is calling for a crackdown on heroin and fentanyl but not marijuana. That doesn't mean he won't go after the legal states later on, but it doesn't seem to be part of his mandate as attorney general just yet.
Of course, the downside is that one effective way to combat the opioid epidemic would be to recognize marijuana as medicine so that doctors can prescribe it as a painkiller instead of the opioids that often lead to heroin abuse.
h/t The Cannabist