On March 15, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech to law enforcement officers in Richmond, Virginia, on his mission to fight violent crime and bolster public safety. Sessions addressed three ways he plans to carry out his mission: using federal resources to evaluate violent crime, prosecuting criminals who use guns when carrying out crimes and fighting “the scourge of drugs.”
It was during his discussion of drugs that Sessions brought marijuana into the conversation, reinforcing a stance that he has previously communicated.
“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable,” Sessions said. “I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”
Following his speech, Sessions took follow-up questions from reporters. One reporter asked, “Do you distinguish between medical marijuana and recreational use? … will you be cracking down on any states that have already legalized marijuana, recreational or medical?”
“I think medical marijuana has been hyped maybe too much. It[‘s] possible that some dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial, I acknowledge that, but … to smoke marijuana, for example, where you have no idea how much THC you’re getting, is probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount. So, forgive me if I’m a bit dubious about that.”
In regards to recreational marijuana, Sessions explained that the idea that it’s harmless and should be legalized is one that he personally doubts.
When reporters pressed for more details regarding the possibility of federal marijuana enforcement, Sessions elaborated his stance only slightly and without addressing specifics.
“The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid. I may have some different ideas myself in addition to that, but essentially, we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades,” Sessions said.