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Sessions Blames Legalization Movement For Drug Deaths

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is blaming overdose deaths on the movement to legalize marijuana and reform drug laws.

“In recent years, there was an erosion of support for anti-drug law enforcement — in Congress, in state legislatures, and even among some of the general public,” Sessions said in a speech at a Drug Enforcement Administration graduation ceremony on Friday. “One law enforcement professional told me that he felt disappointed that government officials didn’t seem to understand the importance of his work. Resources were redirected. What has been the result? We saw drug purity and availability go up and drug prices go down. We saw addiction and death spread like never before.”

Polling now consistently shows that a growing majority of voters support legalizing marijuana. Minuscule percentages of Americans think that the war on drugs has been a success.

After Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference, a large number of members of Congress from both major parties immediately criticized the move.

Lawmakers React To Sessions Anti-Marijuana Move

Legalization advocates pushed back strongly against Sessions’s new claim that support for drug law reform is tied to increased drug deaths.

“If Attorney General Jeff Sessions was serious about combatting the opioid crisis, then he would do two things, support the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes and advocate for an expansion of licensed physicians abilities to recommend marijuana to treat a range of ailments including the biggest contributor to addiction, chronic pain,” Justin Strekal, political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told Marijuana Moment. “The data clearly lays out that medical marijuana is associated with a 36% drop in opioid abuse rates and nearly a 25% reduction in overdose fatalities.”

Sessions, as attorney general and before that as a U.S. senator, has been a vocal legalization opponent.

At the Friday DEA event, Sessions told the assembled new special agents that “this Department of Justice supports you. We believe in you and the importance – the morality – of your mission.”

Sessions’s remarks alleging a link between support for drug law reform with drug deaths were first spotted by CJ Ciarmella of Reason.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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