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5 Things Trump’s AG Pick Has Said About Cannabis

November 18, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Ten days after Donald Trump became president-elect, America got one of the first indications of how a Trump administration might actually deal with cannabis. Trump’s nomination of US Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for US attorney general bode well for cannabis programs in legal states. Despite Trump’s reassurances he would respect state laws, past statements by Sessions make clear that the Alabama Republican is no friend of cannabis.

What exactly has Sessions said about cannabis in the past? Here are some of his many statements from his years in public office:

  1. After being nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 to fill a federal judgeship, Sessions said he was fine with the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot.” He later claimed the comment was a joke.
  2. During Senate hearing in April on the federal response to state cannabis laws, Sessions said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
  3. “We need grownups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” Sessions said at the April hearing. He went on to imply that even mere discussion of ending prohibition could cause a gateway, saying, “You’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think, had we not talked about it.”

U.S. Attorney General Says Cannabis Is Not a Gateway Drug

(Five months later, current Attorney General Loretta Lynch threw cold water on the gateway-drug theory, saying that most people addicted to dangerous substances “started out with a prescription drug problem” and adding, “It’s not as though we are seeing that marijuana is a specific gateway.”)

  1. Sessions been very critical of how the Obama administration has handled state cannabis legalization, stating that “his lax treatment and comments on marijuana, it’s been obvious, it reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs, begun really, when Nancy Reagan started the ‘Just Say No’ program.”
  2. Sessions even brought Lady Gaga into the fray, bringing up Gaga’s past addiction problems during a hearing with former Attorney General Eric Holder. “Lady Gaga said she is addicted to it and it is not harmless,” Sessions said. “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 averse to the health of America.”

Despite Sessions’ harsh statements on cannabis, it’s not yet clear how Trump plans to approach state-legal cannabis markets. The appointment of Sessions is widely believed to reflect Trump’s on immigration rather than cannabis.

Trump in the past has said he believes there are benefits from medical marijuana. He’s also said he favors the rights of states to determine whether and how to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis. But his track record of going back on past statements has left advocates guessing.

If Sessions’ past statements concern you, contact your elected officials and encourage them to defend state programs. Voters legalized cannabis last Tuesday in eight of nine states where the issue was on the ballot. Our job doesn’t stop there.

Gage Peake's Bio Image

Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • Habitat Forever

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  • Stel-1776

    “Donald Trump has picked Jeff Sessions to be the next Attorney General. It really couldn’t get any worse. Jeff Sessions is a drug war extremist that will bring back raids on marijuana businesses and militarized, Reagan-era drug war tactics. Send a message to your Senators telling them to oppose Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.

    Take Action Now!

    • Please sign and share Whitehouse .Gov/ienKq

  • Illbethe Lastmanstanding

    It’s too late for him to do anything and, I believe, Trump will let the people decide.

    • Linda Vee Sado

      Pretty much what he said at the rally I attended. He’d leave it up to the state just like abortion

  • spookykat1

    We’re screwed 🙁

  • spookykat1

    This is great news for the private prison industry. Locking up pot smokers will make them very wealthy and keep those prisons packed full.

  • Linda Vee Sado

    I was more concerned about Clinton:

    Clinton believes that medical marijuana should be available, but only in ‘extreme conditions,’ which would rule out the current pseudo-medicinal use in states with existing legislation like California.
    As far as her ‘wait and see’ approach to recreational marijuana, she was asked to clarify her stance at the 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas and Clinton explicitly stated she was not ready to take a position.

    Trump: Trump: In 1990, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune has Donald Trump on record claiming US drug enforcement is ‘a joke’ and all drugs should be legalized to ‘take the profit away from these drug czars.’ According to Trump, tax revenues from a legalized drug trade will be used to educate the public on the dangers of drugs.

    • Laura P. Schulman

      Unfortunately, as we are already seeing with his other key issues like immigration, his statements drift according to the way the wind happens to be blowing. His people tell him what to say and when he goes off on a tangent, they’ll measure the response, and if it’s negative, he’ll come out with something 180° opposite without missing a beat.

    • metalbuoy

      I agree about Clinton. She was no friend to cannabis. Kevin sabet of the “SAM” Nazis voted for clinton. Trump is a populist more than a republican. BUT it will be left up to the states so if you live in kansas or alabama youre screwed. Massachusetts or california youre golden.

    • lovingc

      The UN agrees with him on this. No body else in the government does but Trump .

  • Kenny duue

    Lets quit voting for people with scientific beliefs and vote in people with scientific knowledge.

    • mrquest

      I agree 100% But it might also be said that when we prayed and went to church and listened to the pulpit life was good even better than now.To much Knowledge is not always a good thing.

  • I knew medical was a scam to draw people out in the open. Stick together with your homies. Well pull through this. Please sign and share. Whitehouse.Gov/ienKq

    • lovingc

      I wouldn’t wast my ink on that one.

      • You had time to waste your electronic ink on that comment. Everyone just stfu and sign it before Obama goes out. Quit whining and get involved in your own lives!!

  • Jozef Bleaux

    Smoke ’em while ya got ’em folks, ’cause as long as weed is Schedule 1, YOU’RE BUSTED!

    • lovingc

      Snot happn’

      • Jozef Bleaux

        @ lovingc, tell that to federal gov’t employees who risk their jobs, pensions, EVERYTHING because state laws mean nothing to our situation. If we get busted, WE ARE SCREWED, A sorry fact of life for FedGov, MJ lovers.

  • DickDan

    You have used the word “averse” incorrectly. I think you meant “adverse”. This article is awful.

  • Trumps pushing the boundaries more now since he’s in office than his campaign.