Most activists would tell you the greatest danger to marijuana legalization in America right now is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has threatened to go after states that have defied federal prohibition by legalizing medical marijuana or recreational cannabis. Sessions is so anti-marijuana that he's said it is "only slightly less awful" than heroin, and that he thought the KKK "was okay until I found out they smoke pot."
So when we got to talk to former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, we had to ask him what the hell is wrong with Jeff Sessions.
"He's old school," Steele told Civilized. "He's a southern gentleman, born and bred in a time that looked at these societal behaviors and activities as aberrations, as detrimental, as dangerous."
He added that in order to persuade Sessions, you have to understand where he's coming from on this issue.
"You have to appreciate where he's coming from in order to get him to where you need him to be," Steele explained. "So instead of reacting negatively by saying 'You're an idiot,' it's more important to make the effort to engage the attorney general directly on the subject with the backing and support of individuals like Senator Orrin Hatch [a Utah Republican who supports marijuana research]. And I think the marijuana-opioid conversation is one way to possibly get Sessions to begin opening those blinders, to peel back those blinders a bit on medical use."
But persuading Jeff Sessions shouldn't be the top priority of marijuana advocates and cannabis enthusiasts, according to Steele.
"Jeff Sessions is not your problem," Steele said. "Jeff Sessions just enforces law. What you need to do is change the law, and that's where allies like Orrin Hatch and others in the House and the Senate become your greatest gateway to impact marijuana laws around the country. Sessions is just saying, 'Hey, I'm just gonna stick with the same old, same old enforcement mechanisms that we've had with respect to this illicit drug.' Which, what kills me is it's viewed by the federal government as more dangerous than opioids, which is mind-boggling. The classification system that the federal government has right now is so assbackwards, it's pathetic."
But in the end, Steele believes scientific fact will prevail so long as marijuana advocates persevere.
"Yes, this is an administration that is not friendly when it comes to science, but the science is the science and the facts are the facts," he said. "But you still have to make the case to show that the current position held by federal authorities and federal statutes with respect to this particular drug are not realistic, they are out of step and they certainly do not conform with what the science tells us. That's one avenue you need to take to get around some of the roadblocks that Jeff Sessions represents. Again, he enforces the law, he doesn't make it. He doesn't get to decide whether it's legal or not. That's what the courts are for. And so I think his rhetoric and his public positions notwithstanding, the battle is not with him. It's with members of Congress who refuse to move off antiquated reasoning with respect to marijuana use."