I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t a fan of marijuana. While speaking before federal, state, and local law enforcement about his plan to stem the flow of illegal drugs moving through the country and address the nationwide opioid crisis, he said he was “astonished” by suggestions that medical marijuana might be a cure.
“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” he said.
“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.”
However, in the same speech, Session also said that he thought the “Obama-era guidance” that led some states to legalize marijuana is “valid,” suggesting that he might not be prepping for a nationwide crackdown on marijuana shops or dispensaries as previously believed.
When asked a follow-up question by a reporter, Sessions said that he thought the benefits of marijuana have been “overhyped” and that instead of focusing on access to medical marijuana, he’d prefer to ramp up education about drugs as well as campaigns that stress prevention:
“In the ’80s and ’90s, we saw how campaigns stressing prevention brought down drug use and addiction. We can do this again,” he said.
“Educating people and telling them the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives, and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug abuse.”
The CDC reports that in 2015, more than 15,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses, and according to the Department of Health and Human Services, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids have quadrupled since 1999.
While some long-term effects of chronic marijuana use remain unclear, a recent study in JAMA suggests that states that offer medical marijuana programs had a 24.8 percent lower opioid overdose mortality rate than states that haven’t legalized weed.