3 Things We Learned About Jeff Sessions Today

Published on April 26, 2018 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Attorney General Jeff Sessions smiles while speaking at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Department of Justice's budget on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Everybody’s favorite attorney general is in the news again today.

Jeff Sessions’ appearance before a Senate committee yesterday afternoon yielded a bushel of quotes on immigration, cannabis, and the rule of law. As a follow-up, this morning’s New York Times has a piece framing Sessions as a well-intentioned but beleaguered Trump lackey.

Allow us to TL;DR the main points for you here.

1. His Understanding of Cannabis Is Evolving. Slowly.

Tom Angell over at Marijuana Moment monitored the AG’s appearance before a Senate panel yesterday and picked up this interesting acknowledgment of personal growth:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged before a key Senate panel on Wednesday that “there may well be some benefits from medical marijuana” and that it is “perfectly appropriate to study” cannabis.

But Sessions was also quick to dismiss a mounting body of evidence that legal marijuana access is associated with reduced opioid issues.

Acknowledging that he has seen some research indicating lower overdose deaths in states that allow cannabis in some form and that “science is very important,” the attorney general said he doesn’t “believe that will be sustained in the long run.”

For Sessions, admitting that “there may well be some benefits” from medical cannabis is… well, it’s movement. Some. A smidgen. A scosh.

He’s still dismissing the growing body of evidence showing that cannabis may help alleviate America’s opioid crisis, but he is acknowledging that the evidence exists. He just doesn’t believe it will be “sustained in the long run.”

Well, that’s what science is for. Geologists didn’t believe the tectonic plate theory would be sustained in the long run, either, right up until the 1960s. A few years ago, most people, including Sanjay Gupta, scoffed at the idea that cannabis could alleviate epileptic seizures.

Time advances, evidence grows. Public officials should advance and evolve as well.

2. He Is an Extremely Frugal Man

Elizabeth Williamson’s profile of Sessions in today’s NYT includes this gem of an observation:

“[U]nlike several other members of the Trump cabinet, Mr. Sessions has not sullied the administration with headlines over first-class jet travel, exorbitant office furnishings, lobbyist-furnished housing — or all of the above. When he is in Washington, Mr. Sessions has a turkey sandwich from the Justice Department cafeteria (base price: $5.29) for lunch, which he eats at his desk. When his team works late, he hands out granola bars, which his wife buys in bulk at Costco.”

Also of note: If federal employees are picking up turkey sandwiches for $5.29, I’d like to know how the rest of us can get in on that action.

3. He Doesn’t Trust the Judgment of US Attorneys

During a speech to a group of New Mexico sheriffs earlier this month, according to the NYT’s Williamson, Sessions said:

“I have ordered each United States attorney’s office along the southwest border to have a zero-tolerance policy toward illegal entry. Our goal is to prosecute every case that is brought to us. There must be consequences for illegal actions.”

That sounds like the usual tough-on-crime baloney. But if it’s true, it says a lot about the attitude of the US attorney general toward the 93 US attorneys who serve as his captains in the field. US attorneys are the folks who run the district offices and actually bring federal cases. Federal law enforcement officials bring them many cases for consideration every week. It’s the US attorneys’ job to decide which to prosecute.

If Sessions truly has given the order to “prosecute every case that is brought to us,” he’s essentially taken his policy from a combat slogan: Prosecute ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.

We’ve been here before. We tried zero-tolerance with drugs in the 1980s. With literally that same phrase. It didn’t work then, either.

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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