Why is Jeff Sessions so obsessed with destroying medical marijuana?

Why is Jeff Sessions so obsessed with destroying medical marijuana?

VicesJune 13, 2017 By Isabelle Kohn

Although Congress has allotted him exactly 0 dollars to do so this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is begging Congress to let him spend, valuable time, resources and your hard-earned tax dollars to go after medical marijuana.

Ah, yes. Medical marijuana. The biggest threat to Americans today.

The thing that's so safe it's legal in 29 states.

The thing that has helped millions of people treat their depression, epilepsy, chronic pain, insomnia, sexual disorders and substance addictions.

The thing that's led to zero deaths in recorded history (checking in with our statistics department, we see that "zero" is significantly less than the amount of people legal substances alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical opioids have killed, which is 88,000, 480,000, and 52,404 people per year, respectively, according to the CDC and the American Society of Addiction Medicine.)

Yet, Sessions is chomping at the bit to take it down.

In a letter to congressional leaders obtained by Tom Angell of Massroots.com and verified independently by The Washington Post, Sessions had himself a little "BUT MOM!" moment when he pleaded them to reconsider the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits the Justice Department from using federal funds to interfere with state laws on medical marijuana. It basically says, "If you want to fuck with legal weed, it's not going to be on the federal government's dime."

"I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime," Sessions wrote in the letter. "The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives."

In other words, Sessions thinks federal funds (i.e., the large chunk of tax the government takes out of your paycheck) should be used to address a threat that categorically and inarguably does not exist.

Allow us to explain.

Firstly, marijuana has no known association with violent crime. In fact, in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon where recreational pot is legal, violent crime has actually decreased since legalization.

Secondly, using a the facade of a "historic drug epidemic" to beg Congress to rationalize his medical marijuana witch hunt makes little sense, because it diametrically contradicts current research on drug use and abuse in the United States.

In fact, the so-called "epidemic" Sessions mentions actually refers to overdoses on legal pharmaceutical drugs — the current leading cause of accidental death — not pot. That's relevant here, because according to research verified by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, legal medical weed is actually correlated with decreased opioid overdoses and deaths and could be used to cut those things by 25 percent. A growing body of research also points out that taking away medical weed could make the killer opioid epidemic even worse. In the game of keeping Americans from dying, then, it would seem legal medical pot would be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Plus, upwards of 94 percent of Americans currently support legal medical weed. And nearly 75 percent of them disagree with the federal government interfering with states' individual laws about it. So, Sessions is really in the minority here.

What, then, is keeping him so fixated on mangling medical marijuana? It's not like Sessions doesn't have access to this research. It's not that he can't read, or he can't understand it.

It's that he simply refuses to.

Here's a little thought puzzle for you.

We just learned that medical pot decreases opioid abuse, right? Well, legalized weed (medical or recreational) is also correlated with lower rates of tobacco usage.

If you take it away, opioid and tobacco use will probably go back up.

If opioid and tobacco use go up, pharmaceutical and tobacco companies will get more money.

And if pharmaceutical and tobacco companies get more money, Jeff Sessions gets ... what, exactly?

Funny you should ask. Corporate loyalty. Funding for future campaigns. The ears of megalithic corporations with money that can be used to sway lawmakers in his favor.

This is partially our own theory, but it's inspired by reality — Sessions has deep, documented ties to Big Tobacco, private prisons and Big Pharma. In fact, tobacco is the reason Jeff Sessions is even a thing today. As Gizmodo reports, "the tobacco industry helped get Jeff Sessions elected to the Senate in 1996."

According to that story, Sessions got so much money from R. J. Reynolds, the makers of Camel cigarettes, that in October of 1997, his "staff had to send money back to the company because they had donated more than was legally allowed."

Sessions stayed loyal to the tobacco industry after that. In 1997, he introduced pro-tobacco legislation that, had it passed, would have put a limit on the amount of money lawyers could make from suing tobacco companies. The amendment was intended to discourage people from suing Big Tobacco, who, at the time, was hemorrhaging legal fees to help fight regulation of cigarettes.

It was known by then that tobacco was much, much more dangerous than previously thought, and it was already being connected to a variety of cancers, other illnesses and deaths. Yet still, Sessions continued on a pro-cigarette crusade all the way up to 2004, proving that public health and not dying was never exactly at the top of his priority list.

"If we’ve learn anything about Sessions from the documents, it’s that he’s much less concerned about health than he is about maintaining the disastrous “war on drugs” of the bad old days," Gizmodo's reporter Matt Novak says in his article. "That is, as long as those drugs don’t include tobacco, the one that kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year."

On the Big Pharma front, Sessions ties aren't as less visibly obvious, but a little digging reveals they're as cut-and-dry. Instead of receiving direct campaign money from companies like Monsanto like he did from Big Tobacco, Sessions has aligned himself with many companies who support retaining our country's infamous prison industrial complex. For example, two of his former senate aids, David Stewart and Ryan Robichaux, were both lobbyists for GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the nation. He's also a great lover of mandatory minimum sentencing, which often keeps nonviolent drug offenders in prison for even longer than kidnappers and child pornographers.

Making connections here; we see that cracking down on all drugs, not just demonstrably dangerous ones, keeps people in prison, which keeps the pockets of organizations like GEO and Sessions reliably stacked — he has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in Vanguard, a company which owns more private prison stock than any other investment management company.

Sessions' interests in a war against weed are so blatantly motivated by profit that it's hard to believe he gets away with this stuff. But, as US News expertly explains, "The crusaders against weed constitute a long list of suspiciously self-interested folks. Lobbyists work hard to secure for police departments millions of dollars in federal grants towards eradicating weed. Pharmaceutical companies compensate leading anti-marijuana researchers in order to keep their customers on painkillers over cannabis, which is cheaper. The prison-industrial complex would like to keep making money on building more prisons to fill with non-violent grass-smokers."

Sessions is playing a game with people's lives here. In focusing all his attention on a remarkably safe, nonaddictive and medically efficacious plant, he's ignoring the real problem, which is that hundreds of thousands of people are dying from opioids, fentanyl and heroin every year, none of which have any sort of proven relationship to marijuana in any way. But ... we guess that doesn't matter when you're raking it in for your prison and tobacco friends.

However, the good news is that it doesn't look like Sessions will be given carte blanche to kill cannabis any time soon.

Although he remains committed to the abysmally unsuccessful War on Drugs and the prison industrial complex, his stance is so unpopular that even lawmakers who have supported these things for decades are distancing themselves and looking at other options, one of which is regulated legal pot. Multiple bills in Congress have been introduced in recent months designed to protect medical weed and reschedule marijuana, if not legalize it entirely. These bills have at least some support, otherwise Congress wouldn't have ignored Sessions' plea for pot-wars.