Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly rejected marijuana legalization efforts Wednesday, offering perhaps his harshest critique of cannabis yet since being confirmed to office last month.
“I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” the head of the Justice Department told reporters Wednesday after a speaking engagement in Richmond, Virginia.
Mr. Sessions added that he’s “personally not in favor” of the notion that there’s “nothing wrong with” recreational marijuana, the Washington Examiner reported, and questioned the legality of several states’ decision to legalize weed despite the Justice Department’s longstanding prohibition on pot.
Federal law is “not eviscerated because the state ceases to enforce it in that state,” Mr. Sessions said, the Examiner reported.
Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states and D.C., while eight states and the capital have passed laws letting adults consume cannabis in accordance with local rules and regulation. Nonetheless, President Trump’s appointment of a noted pot opponent as the nation’s top law enforcer was quick to raise concerns among marijuana advocates who fear his Justice Department may begin to intervene in states with legal weed.
Mr. Sessions’ comments Wednesday were relayed by reporters after he addressed an audience of law enforcement officials with respect to the Justice Department’s efforts to combat violent crime. According to his prepared remarks, Mr. Sessions said authorities could potentially affect change by “preventing people from ever taking drugs in the first place.”
“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,” Mr. Sessions said.
“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,” the attorney general added.
Mr. Sessions’ comparison contrasts sharply with the stance of Chuck Rosenberg, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency. “Heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana,” the DEA chief said in 2015.
Nearly 13,000 Americans died of heroin overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zero individuals, meanwhile, died of marijuana overdoses that year.