Of the Trump administration’s various moves so far, none have generated a more puzzled reaction than their hardline stance on marijuana. On Thursday, a new Quinnipiac University poll showed that it’s just not something that, at worst, the vast majority of Americans are concerned with anymore, and a crackdown on pot was not something that Trump campaigned on. In spite of that, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubled down on Monday, telling reporters that cannibis legalization has driven crime, even when statistics say otherwise.
“I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” Sessions said to gathered reporters at the Department of Justice . “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that.” The stats don’t necessarily bear that out: A 2014 study showed no increase in violent crime and “some evidence of decreasing rates of some types of violent crime, namely homicide and assault.”
Strangely, Sessions seemingly countered his own counterargument at one point. “You can’t sue somebody for drug debt,” he said. “The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that,” he added, but that’s an issue with illegal drugs, not tightly regulated and taxed legal ones.
Sessions then appeared to criticize a column The Washington Post published Tuesday by Sam Kamin, professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver. In the op-ed, Kamin argues that the opioid crisis is “a reason to expand access to marijuana rather than to contract it.” A 2016 study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found “adverse consequences of opioid use” decreased over time in states where marijuana is legalized as individuals substituted marijuana for opioids to treat pain.
But Sessions scoffed at Kamin’s reasoning.
“Give me a break,” Sessions said. “This is the kind of argument that has been out there. [It’s] almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove me wrong. ... My best view is that we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana.”