Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech on Tuesday night that the media and “permissive rhetoric” are to blame for drug misuse issues in the United States.
“We don’t think illegal drug use is ‘recreation.’ Lax enforcement, permissive rhetoric and the media have undermined the essential need to say no to drug use. Don’t start,” he said. “That’s what President Trump said to us the other day in a meeting. What did Nancy Reagan say? Just say no. Don’t start this stuff.”
Sessions also referenced recent marijuana enforcement policy changes he enacted.
“We are not going to pretend that there is not a law against marijuana. There is a federal law against marijuana,” he said. “And we’re not going to pretend marijuana is good for you, either. I don’t think it is.”
The comments came at Heritage Foundation event celebrating the late President Ronald Reagan’s birthday.
In the speech, Sessions cited his marijuana and drug enforcement moves as part of a list of “things we are doing to restore the rule of law and the constitutional balance.”
Last month, the attorney general rescinded an Obama-era memo that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference, a change that has generated broad bipartisan pushback and which is out of step with President Trump’s campaign pledges to respect local cannabis laws.
In a question-and-answer session following the speech, Sessions said that “we think a lot of [heroin addictions] is starting with marijuana and other drugs.”
WATCH: Attorney General Jeff Sessions says his goal for 2018 is to see a further decline in prescriptions of opioids, and says, "we think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs." pic.twitter.com/paWSsEuNrl
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 7, 2018
At a graduation ceremony for Drug Enforcement Administration agents last month, Sessions blamed the marijuana legalization and drug policy reform movement for increases in overdose deaths.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.