Ultra-conservative Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was confirmed as the nation's new Attorney General by the Senate in a 52-47 vote on Feb. 8. A week earlier, he was confirmed by a 11-9 Senate Judiciary Committee vote.
Sessions is noted for saying, "Good people don't smoke marijuana," has also called cannabis "dangerous" and, most controversially, once commented that the Ku Klux Klan was "OK until I found out they smoked pot."
During the AG hearings, when asked about the federal prohibition of marijuana, Sessions stated: “I think one obvious concern is the United States Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state and distribution of it an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It’s not so much the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively where we’re able.”
The former Attorney General of Alabama was nominated for a federal judge position in 1986. During the hearings, Sessions said he had made the Klan comment while investigating the 1981 murder of a black man by two Klansmen in Mobile. "[It] was a silly comment, I guess you might say, that I made," he told the committee. Sessions referred to it as a joke, "that he thought it was 'bizarre' that Klansmen had smoke marijuana after one of their meetings." Sessions' nomination was rejected.
NORML, who gave Sessions an F in its Senate Scorecard, has sounded the alarm, emailing a warning call to its members:
"Senator Sessions is clearly off the reservation… This could foreshadow some very bad things for the eight states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and the more than half the country that has operating medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, start dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores."
DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann issued the following statement:
"Jeff Sessions is a drug war dinosaur, which is the last thing the nation needs now. Those who counted on Donald Trump's reassurance that marijuana reforms 'should be a state issue' will be sorely disappointed. And not just Democrats, but many Republican as well who favor rolling back the War on Drugs had better resist this nomination."
During a Judicary Commitee hearing (which Sessions was a member of) about "state recreational marijiuana legalization" in April, Sessions said the following (cue to 34:45 in above clip):
• "In my opinion this is a huge, huge issue. I was a U.S. Attorney in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president and 50% of young people were using illegal drugs. Over 12–15 years it went to less than half of that."
• "President Obama certainly has said some things that it’s a very little problem. But these data show that it is. You’ve got huge increases in marijuana-related emergency-room visits. This is as obvious as night following day. You make more marijuana more available, you basically say it’s not very dangerous and that young people have a right to participate with it, and older people do too, you’re going to have more problems."
• "What I want to just to say to you and to those who might be listening is far more important than just the details of whether the federal prosecutors start prosecuting marijuana cases in Colorado. Colorado was one of the leading states that started the movement to suggest that marijuana is not dangerous. In my opinion, we’re going to find it ripple through the entire American citizenry, and we’re going to see more marijuana use. It’s not going to be good. We’re going to see more other illegal drug use also, which is damaging. We need grownups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized. It ought not to be minimized that it’s in fact a very real danger. You can see the accidents, traffic deaths related marijuana, a 20% jump. These are things that we’re going to see throughout the country, and see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would had we no talked about it."
• "I think the President needs to speak out. It’s one of [Obama's] great failures. It’s been obvious to me. His lax treatment and comments about marijuana has been obvious. It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs begun really when Nancy Reagan started the Just Say No program. I mentioned that when she passed away. It was a great accomplishment. We moved this country from 50% of high school seniors using marijuana or another drug to less than have of that. Lives were saved. Young peoples’ futures were saved. If we go back into this path, we’re going to regret it. You’ve got to have leadership from the top. I think the drug czar and the DEA leadership understand this, but I’m not sure the president does. I’m not sure the message is getting down to the prosecutors."
• "I can’t tell you how disconcerting it is for me emotionally and personally to see the possibility that we could reverse progress that we made, and let it slip away from us. Lives will be impacted, families will be broken up, children will be damaged because of the difficulties their parents have, and people may be psychologically impacted the rest of their lives with marijuana, and if they go on to more serious drugs, which tends to happen—deny it if you want to, it tends to happen—they’ll be even greater causes."
• "This drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it’s not funny, it’s not something to laugh about. Trying to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana. The result of that is, to give that away and make it socially acceptable creates the demand, increased demand, it results in people being addicted or impacted adversely. I just hope that we can get our thoughts together on it. I believe the Department of Justice needs to be clearer. I believe the president needs to reassert some leadership on this. I think it’s really serious."