Anti-weed attorney general Jeff Sessions has already threatened to reinvigorate the Drug War. Now he’s begun taking steps to carry out that plan.
“Drug dealers are going to prison,” Sessions declared last week. “If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct.” In a memo to the all the US attorneys in the country, Sessions instructed them to pursue the most serious charges against suspects involved in drug dealing. That ultimately means more people behind bars, spending more time in prison, on account of mandatory minimum sentences.
Not even law enforcement is in full support. “Jeff Sessions’ mass incarceration policy buys nothing more than tough-on-crime talking points at the cost of taxpayers and people of color,” said New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman.
These types of sentences, which went on the backburner during the Obama administration, have given America its reputation for having the highest incarceration rate in the world, while doing nothing to actually reduce drug use, especially in light of the opioid epidemic.
“We’re on a bad trend right now,” Sessions said at a conference on the country’s opioid crisis at the University of Charleston. “We’ve got too much complacency about drugs. Too much talking about ‘recreational drugs.’ That’s the same thing you used to hear in the 80s. That’s what the pro-drug crowd argued then. But we realized from reality — empirical fact, neighbors, friends, crime, that this was not a legitimate thing.”
Session’s response to the country’s 52,000 annual opioid deaths is to increase prison time for weed and other petty drug crimes.
However, the premise of Sessions’ new wave Drug War rests upon some glaring fallacies the American public may have a difficult time embracing this time around.
For instance, there’s hard evidence that states with medical marijuana programs have fewer deaths from the opioid epidemic, calling into question the logic behind punishing federal cannabis offenses more harshly.
Moreover, marijuana law reform has become a bipartisan political issue. Just because Sessions is a Republican and represents a Republican administration, does not mean he has the support of Republican legislators like Dana Rohrabacher from Orange County, California, a founding member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, or red states like Arkansas, which have gotten behind medical marijuana legalization. Additionally, green states like California or Colorado are insulating themselves against marijuana backlash from the federal government. The California legislature, for instance, introduced a bill aimed at disallowing state agencies from cooperating with federal agents in weed busts.
In fact, Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, argues in his newsletter Marijuana Moment that Sessions inadvertently made an argument in favor of legalization. “If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun,” Sessions said. Hence, under prohibition, the drug market is more in the hands of dangerous criminals, rather than state regulators.