When Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, was nominated as a federal judge in 1986, one of the comments that got him into trouble was a joke about the Ku Klux Klan. A federal prosecutor testified that Sessions, at the time the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, had said he thought the KKK “was OK until I found out they smoked pot.” Although Sessions, now a senator from Alabama, confirmed that story, in light of his longtime obsession with the evils of marijuana the anecdote reads like a joke about him. After all, this is the same man who recently opined that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Sessions’ retrograde views on marijuana, his opposition to sentencing reform, and his enthusiasm for civil forfeiture do not bode well for drug policy under Trump, who campaigned on a “law and order” platform that was consciously modeled after Richard Nixon’s. Trump promised that “safety will be restored” the day he takes office, but he was pretty vague about what that means. It is more than a little disconcerting that an unreconstructed drug warrior like Sessions will help him fill in the details.
Sessions, who pines for the days when Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign helped “create a hostility to drug use,” was outraged when President Obama conceded, in a 2014 interview with The New Yorker, that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. “I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago,” Sessions told then-Attorney General Eric Holder at a Senate hearing. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension….This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that….Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that?”
At a hearing last April, Sessions bemoaned the message sent by marijuana legalization. “I can’t tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we’ve made,” he said. “It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline [in drug use]. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Read the rest at Reason here.