President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general of the United States, The Washington Post and other news outlets reported Friday. Sessions is a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization whose elevation to attorney general could deal a blow to state-level marijuana legalization efforts across the country.
At a Senate drug hearing in April, Sessions said that “we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” He voiced concern over statistics showing more drivers were testing positive for THC, the active component in marijuana, in certain states.
Sessions further argued that a lack of leadership from President Obama had been one of the drivers of the trend toward marijuana legalization in recent years. “I think one of [Obama’s] great failures, it’s obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana,” Sessions said at the hearing. “It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No.’ ”
He added that lawmakers and leaders in government needed to foster “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about . . . and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Opponents of legalization are cheering the news about the senator from Alabama, saying it may be a potential game-changer in legalization debates around the country. Sessions “is by far the single most outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization in the U.S. Senate,” Kevin Sabet, of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in an email. “If I were betting on the prospects for marijuana legalization, I’d be shorting.”
Advocates for legalization are, conversely, sounding the alarm. “Jeff Sessions is a drug war dinosaur, which is the last thing the nation needs now,” Ethan Nadelmann, of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “Those who counted on Donald Trump’s reassurance that marijuana reforms ‘should be a state issue’ will be sorely disappointed.”
Sessions’s anti-pot positions have been consistent throughout his career. As far back as 1986, he joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was okay until I found out they smoked pot,” according to the New York Times.