Drugs

4 of the Most Dangerous Things Trump's Pick for Attorney General Has Said About Marijuana

Just for starters, he thought the Ku Klux Klan was cool until he found out they smoked pot.

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama
Photo Credit: public domain

President-elect Donald Trump announced Friday that he will nominate U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for the position of attorney general. Sessions is a true Southern conservative with a legacy of racial controversy and hardline positions on everything from immigration and national defense to criminal justice reform.

He is especially odious when it comes to marijuana policy. Sessions has a history of making outrageous statements about marijuana and is a dedicated foe of legalization. His nomination is undoubtedly sending shivers down the spine of the nation's nascent legal marijuana industry, and for good reason. This guy hates weed. But that doesn't mean the end times are upon us. As Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority noted in an email responding to the pick, pot is popular, and Trump himself has said he would not interfere with state marijuana laws.

"While the choice certainly isn't good news for marijuana reform, I'm still hopeful the new administration will realize that any crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems they don't need and will use lots of political capital they'd be better off spending on issues the new president cares a lot more about," Angell wrote.

"A clear majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana and supermajorities across party lines believe that states should be able to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference. The truth is, marijuana reform is much more popular with voters than most politicians are, and officials in the new administration would do well to take a careful look at the polling data on this issue before deciding what to do," he continued.

"During the campaign the president-elect clearly pledged to respect state marijuana laws, and he should keep his word—both because it’s the right thing to do and because a reversal would be a huge political misstep," Angell concluded.

Still, Trump is nominating an avowed weed-hater to be the nation's top cop. And Sessions isn't just your ordinary anti-marijuana politician, he's a true believer of the Nancy Reagan "Just say no" school. In fact, he's more down with the Ku Klux Klan than with weed, as the first in our list of his outrageous statements on marijuana and marijuana policy makes clear.

The competition was tough, but here are four of Sessions' most ridiculous (and worrisome) remarks on marijuana.

1. During hearings on his nomination to a federal judgeship in 1986, which failed in part because of accusations of racism against him, one of his co-workers testified that Sessions said he thought members of the KKK "were okay until I found out they smoked pot." Sessions didn't deny the remark, but said he was only joking.

2. At a 2014 forum where Sessions angrily criticized the Obama administration for not enforcing the federal pot ban in Colorado and other legal states, Sessions got to the nub of it: "Good people don't smoke marijuana," he said.

3. In a hearing with then-Attorney General Eric Holder, Sessions used a comment from a pop star to argue that the Obama administration was underplaying marijuana's harms. "Lady Gaga said she is addicted to it and it is not harmless," he said. "I hope that you will talk with the president, you’re close with him, and begin to push back, or pull back, on this position that I think is going to be adverse to the health of America."

4. In a Senate floor speech this year, Sessions insisted that marijuana was worse than alcohol or tobacco and slammed President Obama for telling the truth about his own drug history. "You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the president of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink, saying I used marijuana when I was in high school and it is no different than smoking," he said. "It is different. And you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the States that have made it legal. I think we need to be careful about this."

There is more where this came from, but you get the idea. This is the man President-elect Trump wants to run the federal criminal justice system and oversee the federal response to medical marijuana and legal marijuana at the state level. But while Sessions and Trump may share some personal attitudes about drug use, Trump's campaign pronouncements on pot—that he would leave it to the states—suggest he may have to rein in his nominee if he wants to stay true to his word. The marijuana industry has real reason to be nervous. 

Here's a bonus clip of Sessions badgering Attorney General-to-be Loretta Lynch about marijuana policy during her confirmation hearings:

Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.

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