Jeff Sessions Realizes He Can’t Stop Pot Legalization—And He’s Mad, Bro

Radical Rant: Sessions Thinks 'Just Say No' Can Fix Opioid Crisis
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an angry man. He hates the idea of legalized marijuana and would prefer everyone in America suffered collective amnesia and forgot that medical cannabis is a thing for 85 percent of the country’s citizens.

But it appears he realizes that even with the DEA at his command, he can’t do anything about it—and oh, does this make him so mad.

A series of fits of pique, the impotent outbursts of a frustrated man, would be the best way to explain Sessions’s recent emissions on the subject of marijuana. On Wednesday, speaking to law enforcement officials in Richmond, Virginia, Sessions added to his pile of recent gems by contradicting what his own DEA said two years ago and insisting, without a shred of evidence, that marijuana and heroin are virtual equal evils.

Here’s Sessions’s full remarks, via the Washington Post:

“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”

As the Post pointed out, this contradicts what DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said two years ago when he copped to the obvious and said cannabis is less harmful than heroin.

In a country where opiate overdoses kill 13,000 people a year and marijuana “overdoses” kill no one, Rosenberg’s is hardly a bold statement.

Yet Sessions has clung for dear life onto the antiquated notion, last taken seriously sometime in the Nixon administration by people who hadn’t left the house in decades, that cannabis is wholly harmful. A few weeks ago, Sessions posited that legalized marijuana is creating violence in the Midwest. That’s less crazy than what he said Wednesday, but only marginally.

What’s up with Jeff Sessions?

We have a theory. He’s acting out because he has realized he’s powerless to do anything about legalized marijuana and has reached the step where he is forced to admit it to himself. Because, within minutes of the above declaration, Sessions said that he won’t be able to use the Justice Department to shut down America’s burgeoning marijuana movement—and that the hands-off approach taken by Barack Obama’s Justice Department is “valid.”

As Tom Angell of Massroots first reported:

“The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,” Sessions said in a question-and-answer session with reporters on Wednesday following a speech in Richmond, Virginia.

Sessions added that he “may have some different ideas myself in addition to that” but indicated that the federal government would not be able to enforce its remaining marijuana prohibition laws across the board in states with legalization.

“Essentially we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades,” he said.

He’s lost! He admitted to it. Richmond has fallen, General Lee has surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. The war is over… yet here’s Jeff, still in uniform, still barking orders, as if the first shots of Bull Run hadn’t been fired before we were all born.

At this stage, it’s worthwhile for everyone to take a step back and ask—why? Why does Sessions persist on this tired old line of thinking, which is scientifically unsound to start with, but also politically damaging?

Jeff Sessions could be taking a page from his boss’s book of artsy dealmaking, and using his bully pulpit to spout off about the things that irk him. Sessions may also be venting ahead of a string of meetings where people—police officers, even; important ones!—will be telling him things that he doesn’t want to hear.

Such as, legal marijuana hasn’t caused crime, has created tax revenue cops can share and is not in fact sold on every corner in any city in any place in America. On Thursday or Friday, Sessions is scheduled to have face-to-face time with Chicago police Chief Eddie Johnson and other big-city chiefs of police, the Sun-Times reported.

And if marijuana comes up, they’ll be forced to admit the obvious—weed isn’t causing them any problems.

Sessions is a true believer that marijuana is a horrible, horrible thing. This is no surprise. We’ve known this for some time, even before he openly pined last year for the Nancy Reagan days, back when a generation of school kids were taught that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Those kids are grown now. Many of them smoke weed while holding down jobs and raising children—good things. Many more of them don’t use marijuana—and yet are still voting to legalize it, in record numbers.

At some point, Sessions’s devotion to this particular Lost Cause will start causing him real problems.

He appears to be suffering from serious confirmation bias, seeking counsel from others in the like-minded minority such as the attorney general of Nebraska, whose lawsuit alleging that Colorado legalization caused problems in his state was so thinly sourced the Supreme Court refused to hear it. And the longer he persists, the more it will undermine his own authority.

“It’s much easier to ignore the words of a man who’s clearly not only ignorant but very comfortable in his own ignorance—a serious challenge for an attorney general, who’s the chief law enforcement officer in the United States,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in comments to the Huffington Post.

The attorney general of the United States can’t keep repeating alternative facts without creating a significant credibility gap, between himself, the 46 attorneys he’ll soon appoint to replace the Obama-era appointments he just fired and the lawmakers in Congress whose constituents realize this is bogus and vote appropriately.

So keep the Reefer Madness coming, Jeff. Embrace it. Let it all out.

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