During a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing Tuesday about how the Department of Justice is monitoring the effects of marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) bemoaned that years of work “trying to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana” hasn’t resonated.
Depending on how you define things, that means that either 44 percent or 11 percent of Americans are baddies. According to a Gallup survey from last summer, those respective percentages represent the proportion of citizens who have tried marijuana and those who say they use it regularly.
Sessions has a history of being virulently anti-cannabis. After President Obama said pot is less dangerous than alcohol in a 2014 interview, Sessions cited a one-person sample to make the case Obama was wrong.
“Well, Lady Gaga said she is addicted to it and it is not harmless. She’s been been addicted to it,” Sessions said during a hearing. “I just think it’s a huge issue. I hope that you will talk with the president, you’re close with him, and begin to push back, or pull back, on this position that I think is going to be adverse to the health of America.”
Tuesday’s hearing, called by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), was criticized by marijuana reform advocates for serving as little more than a forum for the two oldest members of the Senate and those who think like them to reiterate their anti-marijuana views. For instance, despite federal data indicating that legalization hasn’t led to a significant increase in marijuana use among youth in affected states, Feinstein said cannabis use has “escalated dramatically in the states that have legalized marijuana.” Her claim wasn’t challenged.
Grassley, for his part, pointed out that a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control found that people who are addicted to marijuana are much more likely to also be addicted to heroin, but didn’t mention that the report also indicates abuse of alcohol and prescription pills are correlated with heroin abuse. In fact, as the Washington Post points out, other research indicates alcohol is the real gateway drug, as its often the first mood-altering substance teens try.
Tuesday’s hearing came on the heels of the Government Accountability Office publicly releasing a report recommending that the Department of Justice devote more energy to monitoring the effects of state marijuana legalization. In 2013, the DOJ announced it wouldn’t intervene in states that passed laws legalizing marijuana, despite the fact that cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance on the federal level.