Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed negative comments about both recreational and medical cannabis. His ideas seem to go against some of what President Trump said during last fall’s election. And they continue to raise questions about how this administration will deal with cannabis.
Jeff Sessions Comments
Sessions comments came during a speech he gave last week to law enforcement officials in Richmond, Virginia. He talked about weed at a couple of key points during the event.
The first one came during the speech itself when he spoke about drug abuse in the U.S.:
“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.”
He returned to the subject a little while later. During a press conference, he said that medical marijuana “had been hyped, maybe too much.”
Unfortunately for Sessions, there are a couple of big problems with what he said.
Not Backed Up By Research
For starters, a lot of research suggests that legalizing cannabis may, in fact, be an effective way to approach opioid and heroin addiction.
For example, one study found that there are almost 2 million Americans currently abusing prescription opioids. And 16,000 people die every year from opioid overdoses.
To make it even worse, many folks who abuse opioids end up getting addicted to heroin.
But, the study also found that legal medical marijuana could help. Researchers found that states with medical cannabis programs have significantly lower rates of prescription opioid abuse.
And that’s not the only study to say that. In 2014, researchers said that states with medical cannabis had almost 25% lower opioid overdose death rates.
And RAND researchers reached similar conclusions a year later. They said that states with legal medical marijuana do much better. They have lower rates of opioid addiction. And those states also have lower rates of opioid overdoses.
But Sessions tried to say the exact opposite. His claim that cannabis can’t combat opiate and heroin addiction aren’t backed up by research.
Cannabis Vs. Heroin
Sessions also compared cannabis to heroin. He said that marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.
But again, the data suggests otherwise.
According to the CDC, heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010. Nearly 13,000 people died from heroin overdose in 2015.
So what about cannabis? It turns out there have been zero deaths from weed. Ever.
In fact, scientists said that it’s virtually impossible to overdose on cannabis. You’d have to consume almost 1,500 pounds of weed in 15 minutes to even run a risk of overdose.
Once again, it looks like Sessions’ claim that weed is essentially as dangerous as heroin is off base. It’s just not backed up by the available data.
Does Sessions Disagree With Trump?
The other potential problem with Sessions’ comments is that they seem to disagree with what President Trump has said.
In particular, Trump has said that he may be OK with medical marijuana. He told GQ Magazine that “legalized marijuana is always a very difficult question. For medicinal purposes and medical purposes, it’s fine.”
Sessions’ latest comments contradict this. And that could be a problem in an administration that’s already been accused of in-fighting, chaos, and confusion.
The Final Hit
At the end of the day, Sessions’ comments are more in line with classic scare tactics than actual research. And given his position as AG, this could have negative implications for cannabis law.
Last fall’s elections saw a lot of changes. Four states legalized recreational use. And four more legalized new medical marijuana laws.
After those wins, the cannabis community has been waiting to see how Trump’s administration will approach cannabis. Sessions’ latest comments raise even more questions.