Trump Picks Marijuana Opponent for Attorney General

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President-elect Donald Trump has offered the top spot in the Justice Department to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an ardent opponent of marijuana law reform, several news organizations are reporting.

As attorney general, Sessions would oversee federal prosecutors, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other law enforcement agencies that would be responsible for any crackdown on marijuana businesses and consumers operating in compliance with state laws.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to respect state cannabis policies if elected president, though has shown himself willing to change his position on various issues over the years.

If Sessions becomes attorney general, which would require a confirmation vote by his fellow senators early next year, it will likely become much more challenging for marijuana law reform supporters to encourage the new president to keep his cannabis campaign pledges.

In a Senate hearing on the federal response to state marijuana laws in April, Sessions said, “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and implied that even discussion of legalization could create a gateway effect to increased use of other drugs.

“We need grown ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” he said. “You’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think, had we not talked about it.”

Sessions, a former U.S. attorney, also criticized President Obama for his administration’s approach to the issue. “His lax treatment and comments on marijuana, it’s been obvious, it reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs, begun really, when Nancy Reagan started the ‘Just Say No’ program,” the senator said.

While Sessions was under consideration for a federal judgeship in 1986, a former deputy accused him of saying that the Ku Klux Klan “were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions later said the remark was an out-of-context joke, but it and other racially charged comments soon led to his nomination’s rejection by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a body on which he now sits as a member and which will consider his confirmation as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

During last year’s confirmation hearing for Loretta Lynch, the current attorney general, Sessions questioned her about marijuana policy, forcefully pressing for more federal action on the issue in light of the relative leeway the Obama administration has given to states to implement their own laws.

“I hope that you will cease to be silent, because if the law enforcement officers don’t do this, I don’t know who will. And in the past, attorneys general and other government officials have spoken out and I think kept bad decisions from being made,” he said.

In a Senate floor speech earlier this year, Sessions slammed President Obama for admitting to previous drug use and downplaying its effects.

“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.”

In a 2014 hearing, Sessions laid into FBI Director James Comey for implying he was thinking of loosening the bureau’s hiring restrictions on people who have used marijuana. “Do you understand that that could be interpreted as one more example of leadership in America dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use and that could undermine our ability to convince young people not to go down that dangerous path?” he asked.

In a separate hearing with then-Attorney General Eric Holder, Sessions used an anecdote about singer Lady Gaga to argue that President Obama has understated cannabis’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.”

In another Senate floor speech, Sessions decried the rise of state marijuana legalization and harkened back to Reagan administration. “Now we have states legalizing it, and they are already talking about recriminalizing it. It is a mistake. We have seen that experiment before. Lives are at stake,” he said. “The federal government led the way with tough sentencing, eliminating parole, targeting dangerous drugs in effective ways, and states and local governments followed.”

Sessions’s past remarks clearly indicate he doesn’t support letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference, setting up an early potential conflict inside the new administration. Trump will have to decide how much rein to give the attorney general to go against his repeated campaign pledges.

“I really believe you should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation,” Trump said during a campaign rally. “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”

Similarly, in an interview with a Denver TV station, he said, “I think it’s up to the states. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”

And at the Conservative Political Action Conference Trump said that when it comes to state marijuana laws, “If they vote for it, they vote for it.”

Marijuana law reform advocates’ best hope may be that the administration views the issue through a political lens and decides that reversing clear pledges and mounting a federal effort to overturn broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create fights it does not need, likely distracting harmfully from other issues the new president cares much more about.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

63 Comments

  1. This might be the worst pick, as far as cannabis reform goes, for AG. This might be bad for medical, too. It was Sessions who said “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He truly believes weed is very dangerous and needs to be eradicated. A big day for the private prison industry and Big Pharmacy! Sessions will tell other states it’s “game over” because there’s a new sheriff in town and that they should not bother trying to legalize. Yeah, we’re screwed!!!!

  2. Bad laws are made by those whose ignorance wins over knowledge/truth. I hope someone can lobby Jeff Sessions and convince him of the ‘facts’ regarding the very important medical benefits of Cannabis. And also to convince him that recreational legalization is certainly no worse than recreational alcohol’s legalization. I would also hope that someone can convince him of the importance of expanding the medical research of cannabis.

    I don’t trust that Donald Trump has a mind of his own concerning any matter, because he has a long history of flip-flopping on all issues at whim, and has never been known to have a personal set of good moral values. I think we can only hope that the pro-Cannabis folks can win the day in influencing him.

    • I guess your convinced getting stoned is no worse than getting drunk yields a good rational reason that legalization is good for society. If that is your strategy that the pro-Cannabis folks can win the day in influencing him, your doomed. knowledge/truth, when you look at the stats from the study that Colorado conducted on marijuana use in 2014 that 66 percent of the pot consumed in Colorado is done by 22 percent of the Users who smoke 1.7 grams a day in more than 3 smoking sessions a day by 148,000 users. This is not recreational but hard core addiction. None of this leads to a good moral setting. I live in Colorado in the heart of Denver, and see daily the destruction to the communities that this is all taken place. Homelessness has soared by the influx of those who are trying to participate in the Green Gold Rush (3 people living in their car in front of my house getting high day and night, two guys now living in the alley and smoking daily). Call the police and they do not respond as they say its all legal. The cost of rents soared for housing and more homeless people . Two buildings down from me a five unit apartment building was turned in a airBNB get high by the day hotel. City had no power to stop it. Stoned woman from the pot hotel tried breaking into my house at 1 am. The pot businesses driving small businesses to close who cannot afford the higher rents for storefronts or industrial space as the pot businesses pay any amount to get space to sell weed. The pot businesses has taken over 1500 storefronts and industrial spaces, in the city of Denver alone, We lost about every good moral business to this for your need to get high. Bookstores, small repair shops, small retail you name it, every type of business you can think of are gone gone gone. I speak from first hand experience. This past week I found a heroin shooting gallery along side my building along with finding people shooting in the alley which I never saw before the legalization. I have not seen one good thing yet to those who lead good clean lives. These pot businesses are not doing anything to help offset all the negatives of the legalization. If you think the pro-Cannabis folks can win the day with the BS on how legalization is good your dead wrong.

      • I believe she was saying if alcohol is legal, why not marijuana? If xanax is legal, why not marijuana. Prescription drugs & alcohol are the 3rd leading cause for deaths in the world. Not marijuana. Let’s focus on real issues.

        • How do you know all those alcohol abusers are not using cannabis since they’re not tested for MJ use when charged with an alcohol violation? Yes, alcohol can destroy lives but you can’t know how many are destroyed by MJ. And one thing we DO know is that MJ use diminishes ambition…they don’t want to get jobs, just get high…very costly to the taxpayers.

          • Marijuana doesn’t kill! There’s no arguments against marijuana while Benzodiazepines, opiates, and alcohol are still legal. Period.

          • Nicole…what does your friend with diabetes have to do with legalizing Rec MJ? LOL MJ can’t cure diabetes or even help it.

          • Avid user and workaholic on

            I’m sorry but you just sound ignorant. I have a full time job, work 55-60 hrs a week and just got a promotion to Supervisor while enjoying in the comfort of my own home. Maybe some people you know are lazy and lack ambition bit don’t pass judgement on people you don’t even know.

      • Sam, you make good points and if all the things you say are true then especially Recreational legalization is certainly not good. I don’t live in the city so my perspective is much different from yours. Also, I use cannabis for medical purposes, not recreational although sometimes that’s hard to avoid. Posts like yours are very rare…usually we just see posts that claim that cannabis is the greatest gift from God ever. I am sincere when I say that I’d like to hear more testimonies from others that have seen the same kinds of negative consequences that you have. My comparing cannabis to alcohol was not necessarily a compliment to cannabis. Like I said though…we need facts to know the truth of how legalization impacts the rest of society. Where else can we see testimonies like yours? I’d like to see a good debate on this subject. Please post any links you may have that may help us see the truth of the matter.

        • IN WASHINGTON WHEN I HAD A DISPENSARY. WE HELPED GET HEROIN ADDICTS OFF OF IT AND HELP WITH THERE WITHDRAWLS. STRONG CANDIES HELP THEM. LOOK WHERE HEROIN ADDICTION IN 2 LEGAL STATES HAVE GONE DOWN.. AND HEROIN ADDICTION STARTS WITH OUR LEGAL PHARMACY DRUGS.. THAT WHERE WE NEED TO START.. TO CONTROL. THEY CANT CONTROL THERE OWN DRUG PROBLEM LEAVE CANNABIS ALONE… ALSO IT IS NOT FAIR TO COMPARE CANNABIS TO ALCOHOL… ALCOHOL IS 1000 TIME WORSE AND SHOULD NOT BE COMPARED. LET VOTE ALCOHOL ILLEGAL ILLEGAL ILLEGAL ALCOHOL AND LEAVE CANNABIS ALONE

          • Jerry…legalizing Rec cannabis in order to help Heroine addicts makes no sense whatsoever. (Adding drugs to drugs never helped, did it?). There’s no way to compare alcohol harm to MJ harm since it’s not been done.

            There – Their – They’re…there’s a difference, learn it.

          • United States Resident on

            I agree 100%. Alcohol is far worse. Smoking marijuana doesn’t make you aggressive or die from liver failure. I truly believe that those of you saying all the negative things have never actually experienced it. I have personally seen what an alcoholic goes through and have seen several people flourish with regular marijuana use. I vote for alcohol to be illegal. It kills far more than marijuana. Show me where marijuana has killed someone. And using marijuana leads to higher heroine and cocaine use?! That is ludicrous. Pharmaceutical drugs are to blame for that. And ecstasy, too. Drugs like this need to eradicated, not weed. Seriously, all of you who are scared of marijuana have been manipulated by your government and law enforcement officials. You are scared of something you know absolutely NOTHING about. Start thinking for yourselves instead of letting them scare you into submission. Do some REAL research. Sheep.

            And Jane, it does make sense. You shouldn’t speak on subjects you have no experience in. Putting a heroine addict on MORE herione in pill for m (methadone) is what the doctors do for them now because people like you are too scared to believe marijuana can be used for anything other than to party. Does that sound better than trying to find something NATURAL and safe? Methadone is as addictive as heroine because it IS heroine. Man made and perfectly legal because they say so. Marijuana is a plant. An herb that has been used for 1000’s of years by cultures all over the world for hundreds if not thousands of ailments. I would take that over what the FDA approves any day. I trust them far less and it’s sad that you seem to trust them so much. And also, stop judging people on their grasp of the English language. It just shows that you have nothing better to add to your argument so you decide to belittle their intelligence.

          • united states resident….I’m sorry you’re so thin-skinned about English grammar. LOL So you would recommend legalizing Recreational use of marijuana so that Heroine addicts can get treated with it? Can you think of maybe a better way…treating the Heroine addict with MJ and leaving the rest of the population alone? There are too many of us out here that know exactly how Marijuana affects humans to wish us all away.

          • United States Resident on

            What can mj users do to you to ruin your perfect world? It can’t possibly be worse than alcohol users? You, Jane, are the one that needs to get educated. MJ definitely does not kill. Your ignorance is showing.

      • Sounds like your neighborhood went to pot long before legalization of cannabis. Your ignorance, and I mean lack of knowledge on the facts shines. Sorry we all have to repeatedly hear your comments and opinions that we have already heard so many times over the past 50 years. Get a grip. People flock to our state by the thousands seeking hope and help from just wanting to relax after working in the professional world or seeking relief for their loved one delibiitated by seizures or other conditions stopping them from leading a normal life. Cannabis has been their savior. Who are you to judge? I own a mom and pop recreational cannabis shop and have seen the miracles of this plant first hand! It is a plant. Not processed poison as alcohol is just that! Poison! Amen for all the people across our world who have gotten help by this tremendously powerful miracle maker! May God continue to Bless Colorado! And your comment on being lazy…. just helps your ignorance shine. Amen to all the miracles. Thank you Lord for allowing me to help through Your Mercy and never ending Love bring help, hope and healing to so many people. Please allow me to continue to serve you in this industry that only exists because of You. Give us all strength and endurance who pioneer the path and especially those who seek help through your Mercy. AMEN

      • The takeaway from your rant is that you don’t know shit about the proper way to use “you’re” in a sentence. ..as in “you’re an idiot”; not”your an idiot”.

    • Lobby is the correct word to use.
      Sessions has been PAID to think backwards.
      (my strategy would be to put HIM in prison, along with Trump, Clinton & all the other liar lawyers)

  3. OhmyGod! This guy is so full of it! And I bet he’s one of those “big government is bad” conservatives, yet he wants to expand government intrusion into people’s lives over marijuana! Those Republicans are all too eager to make more laws and lock people up when it suits their agenda…

  4. You can’t lump all Republicans into that bag. It’s true that Conservatives want less Government, but that does not translate into ‘more’ intrusion into our personal lives. Let’s just hope that decisions are made based on facts, not myths.

    • History has shown “less government” from conservatives standpoints really means less restrictions on big business and rich people. Less government should have meant far less invasion of our privacy, less dictation of what our morals should be relative to those who think they can judge, less interpretation of our Constitution, and less… well almost anything other than less environmental regulations and controls on those who would say “just words” and it be okay.

      Sessions is ignorant and very scary when it comes to mmj and legal mj. Mandatory minimums and other no brainer stuff too. Got many negative letters from him where I mentioned mmj reforms. LE has so funded him for decades that he won’t change. Someone should hold him down and blow him shotguns. Mj is just a mild intoxicant that has so much medical promise. This whole administration non-voters and rural voters ushered in scares me.

      Hope America can reign

      • Jeff Sessions is a brilliant man. And I’m thrilled with Trump’s picks for his administration so far. It’s true what I saw today…”Obama is the best thing that ever happened to Republicans!” LOL Yes…now we may be able to reverse all the immoral laws and replace them with good sense. It’s fun to watch the ‘progressive’ evil ones reveal their shock and awe at the latest political happenings. Enjoying it all on a daily basis!

    • Your out of your mind lady.this perfect little world you think you got now,get ready .you think you got every thing you want. You will see,and I Will HA HA. at you.

  5. Its as if the ghosts of Harry Anslinger and Richard Nixon procreated and the result is Senator Jeff Sessions.

    Hopefully the Trump statements will prevail, especially once some facts are learned and the amount of dollars involved are convincing to a business mind like Trump. If Sessions is allowed free reign to implement policy based upon his views – that is indeed bad news for cannabis and good news for the police state.

  6. Leo Dearing III on

    I am a proud citizen of the State of Nevada. This State’s voters have passed, by legal vote, State laws to allow medical and recreational cannabis. We the People will not allow a hostile government,( to cannabis) to step back into a prohibitionist mind set from the 1930’s. So let AG Sessions from that bastion of enlightened thinking Alabama try to turn back the clock or try and get the toothpaste back into the tube.

  7. Yet, klonopin is legal. And I’m suffering horrible withdrawals weaning off but guess what helps? Marijuana. This country, this government, these people are ass backwards.

    Sessions; get your priorities straight. Work on the psych drugs that are the 3rd leading cause of deaths.

    • I’ve been there with the benzo withdrawal…. it’s brutal and you are correct that cannabis helps that process…. Hang in there, it gets better.

    • Nicole…every single review of cannabis strains on Leafly tells me that Marijuana is also a psych drug….we all know what THC does.

      • I have leafly as well. It’s used for psych purposes. Because it works. It should most definitely be used for that purpose, instead of Benzos and antidepressants, which again, are killing people. If it didn’t work, Pfizer, teva, and every other pharmaceutical company wouldn’t be throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the fight against legalization. Let’s be real, we know what THOSE kind of drugs do as I am a victim and CBD oil has helped me. As it has helped millions of Epilepsy conditions. Certain strains also kills cancerous cells. The good outweighs the bad. And that’s what doctors, by oath, are supposed to adhere to when diagnosing and administering drugs. (First, do no harm) The legal drugs are doing WAY more harm than Marijuana. And that’s why it won’t be legal, because it will help you and then you won’t go to the doctor anymore so no more money for them. Hello. Wake up America.

  8. Time to get these old fuddy duddy old old people out of office . their fuxxed up ways will all die with them. Prohibition does not work and the war on drugs costs more than any humanitarian effort all combined. Time to flush the toilet in Washington. And in all areas of government.
    we dont like them either…..they are concerned for us …fuxk em

  9. I just dont get it. How does pharmacuetical company with all their crazy drugs that they use for patients and all the side effects it does to the human body! Get the fux out of here. Come on how can a seed tha grows in the ground be a gateway to drugs. Its not compounded like pharmaceutical do. They used so many chemicals just to make one pill that supposed to make people feel better but it all it does just slowly mess you body up.

    • So Sad…let’s not exaggerate. I know many people whose diseases have been cured by pharmaceuticals. I’ll bet you can’t keep a diabetic alive for long with cannabis…. But I do have plenty of other issues with big greedy pharma companies.

      • That’s definitely not an exaggeration. Pharmaceutical drugs have harmed and killed thousands of people. It has done more harm than good. And the withdrawals are brutal. Please do your research. Hell, YouTube xanax/ssri withdrawal and there’s your answer. People who were never suicidal are killing themselves off of this crap. Not one death to this day, marijuana related.

        • Nicole…pharma’s kill and alcohol kills…why add another drug that kills (and makes people stupid even when not high) to the recipe? You need to get educated.

          • Jane, you need to get educated, or get out of HERE!!!!
            Since when has CANNABIS killed anyone?
            Cannabis is not a drug, its a plant!
            ALL drugs are synthetic chemicals.
            Cannabis doesn’t make anyone stupid, but your lies are an effort in that direction, so please leave & don’t return!

  10. And BTW, my best friend of 25 years is ddiabetic. She leads a normal, happy, marijuana smoking life with no death in her future anytime soon. Erica, tell her. 😀

  11. United States Resident on

    Wow, Jane. Just, wow. You can keep a diabetic alive by changing their diet and having them eat healthy, while fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods. Wow. You really are ignorant.

    • Should I tell my diabetic son to stop all his long-acting and short-acting Insulin and eat more veggies? You wouldn’t mind seeing him dead as long as nobody interferes with your Marijuana addiction! Get educated.

      • United States Resident on

        Yes you should. The doctors don’t tell you a damn thing about nutrition because they don’t even get taught that in medical school. So yea, I suggest you take every processed food out of his diet and replace with organic fruits and veggies. It’s not just a new fad. It’s actually incredibly good for us. And he needs the vitamins as we’re all vitamin deficient due to crap food we’re offered. So again I say, do research instead if listening to the crap you so blindly listen to because you were raised a sheep without a thought in your head of your own. I have two boys myself, so stop acting like we’re all monsters because we would like to see mj prohibition ended. I would never want to see another child lost to this disease. But you CAN take control of it and reverse it. The information is out there. You just have to want to find it, instead of taking the easy way by accepting everything the doctor and FDA tell you to. Also, I haven’t taken one hit of mj going on three months. I can NOT smoke when I want and smoke when I want. NOT an addiction as addicts do not have this option……JANE.

  12. United States Resident on

    And everything you are spewing in these comments are myth, not fact. It’s making me laugh really. It is quite clear you DO NOT know what THC does. Or what you are talking about.

  13. Fact: 100% of heroin users have drunk water…. Should we blame water as a gateway to hard drugs? No it’s a coinisidence just like the myth that smoking marijuana leads people to become addicted to hard drugs. People will believe what they want to believe and they have that right. No one is going to change jane’s mind on the subject and we should stop trying. But Jane like it or not the people of your state voted to legalize it. If you have such a problem with it and feel so strongly that it’s destroying your city maybe it’s time you moved out and find a place that agrees with your point of view. Or run for office yourself and try to change things rather than spend your time writing to people that clearly disagree with you wholeheartedly. I’m not saying that you are wrong or that a descending voice is unwelcome but at a certain point both sides are just beating their heads against a wall and the discussion ceases to move forward. Personally I look forward to the day that my state legalizes it for all adult users and regulates the market.. And I think ideally for you if more states did legalize it the drain on your city would be less because those “pot addicts” living out of a car would have more places to go. Bringing those people out of the black market drug world opens up more opportunities to help people who struggle with addiction and I truely believe if done right would be one of the best moves in overall public health that we could see in a lifetime. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just optimissed only time will tell.

  14. If Jane can’t digest truth, like all the rest of us HERE, she should LEAVE.
    Brainwashed idiots have no place here, as they are welcomed all over the internet.
    Jane, I live in Colorado too, so spread your lies where liars are welcome, but not here.

    • You guys are so intolerant! Others have opinions too, you know. LOL There are places all over the Internet that can help addicts. Just google it. And good luck, I mean it.

      • United States Resident on

        We’re intolerant?! Look at all of YOUR comments and then look up the definition of intolerant. Just because you can’t handle knowledge coming at you at super speed doesn’t make US the bad guy chick. Mj should be regulated like alcohol and made available to adults.

  15. United States Resident on

    Oh, and all these people wanting to end mj prohibition all over the country are already using it one way or another, so how is it becoming legal going to change anything other than how they obtain it? Things will basically stay the same for you and change for them.

  16. As i know marijuana did not kill anyone also it is a good for health, many people are feeling relax take marijuana. many marijuana lover do not know how to buy marijuana from online and also right use of marijuana. All marijuana lover are welcome to buy marijuana online. there are many legal marijuana seller in USA sell legal marijuana from there store and also there have marijuana for sale online.

    Thank you for your Nice post .

  17. We definitely don’t want any backsliding on legalization. One overlooked victim of the war on drugs has been the environment. Here in Humboldt CA, cultivation has been expanding exponentially for years, harming vital forest habitat. Habitat Forever is a pro-legalization group, formed to move the industry out of habitat. Watch our short youtube video, Humboldt is Habitat to learn more. https://youtu.be/7p93FFPE7_8

  18. Pot is BAD for people, doubly so for teen brains. Our kids are dumb enough already. POT does not need to be legal. If there are (very doubtful) medicinal properties, it can be put in a pill. Grow up, dopers, our kids already score 25th among industrialized nations, they don’t need to get dumber. Our adults are already lost.

    • Hahaha Mary. I agree with Jeff here. You are PAINFULLY uninformed. Blame shift all problems to marijuana instead of the children themselves. Kids don’t have the discipline today like in the old days. Bottom line, most of them don’t give a crap about school. I’m sure if they applied themselves, they would test better.

  19. Peter Belanger on

    If they pull the plug on recreational weed and close down the stores, I’m going to crusade to have alcohol outlawed too.
    If go back to prohibition, we’re going ALL THE WAY!!!!!!

    “No Weed……No Booze!!!!!”

    suck it alkies!

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