Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access, and NORML All Speak Out Against Sessions
Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted to advance the nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. The vote was 11 to 9, with no Democrats supporting the nominee. The nomination will now go to the Senate floor for a full and final vote.
Sessions has a storied history of supporting marijuana prohibition. This includes previously declaring that “good people do not smoke marijuana.” He also supported legislation that would have allowed defendants to receive the death penalty if they had received multiple convictions for marijuana distribution.“Jeff Sessions is a disaster for drug policy and criminal justice reform,” said Bill Piper, senior director for Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “He is a nightmare for medical marijuana patients, and will destroy families and communities by amplifying the mass incarceration crisis.”
Sessions’ record is deeply concerning. In recent years, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use (including nine states represented by members of the Judiciary Committee). An additional 16 states, including six states represented by members of the Judiciary Committee, have legalized CBD oils. These are based on cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic component of marijuana that has shown effectiveness in managing epileptic seizures that afflict children. Additionally, people who use marijuana in Louisiana with a doctor’s recommendation are protected from arrest.
Eight states have voted to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol, including California.
Sessions has disparaged the tens of millions of Americans who have used marijuana, including the last three presidents. He has criticized the Justice Department’s guidance respecting state marijuana laws, and even opposes marijuana for medical use.If confirmed as Attorney General Sessions could increase marijuana arrests and prosecutions, threaten state officials, and undermine the ability of local agencies to regulate marijuana. In a recent article in The Hill, former Department of Justice officials and Session allies said states that voted to legalize marijuana “may be in for a reckoning.”
Sessions was the chief opponent of 2016 bipartisan efforts to reduce sentences for drug offenses, voting against the bill in committee. Sessions has also been critical of the Obama Justice Department’s guidelines around sentencing that were designed to limit harsh sentencing and reserve mandatory minimums for major offenders.
He opposes “any” reform of civil asset forfeiture, a process that allows government agencies to seize money and property without even having to charge anyone with a crime.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has created a digital campaign to put the brakes on Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General. The DPA campaign includes a video launched on The Root that exposes Sessions’ appalling record on drug policy, civil and human rights, and criminal justice reform.The DPA video, created by award-winning filmmaker dream hampton, alternates between archival media footage of Jeff Sessions’ troubling racist words and actions, and DPA staff and allies talking about what Sessions would mean for drug policy and criminal justice. The video ends with a call to action asking people to call their Senators to reject Session for Attorney General.
Recently, the DPA organized a teleconference for reporters to discuss Sessions’ record on civil and human rights, criminal justice reform, and drug policy. Representatives from LatinoJustice, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Council on American Islamic Relations, Cato Institute, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and the Drug Policy Alliance expressed their concerns about Sessions.
“Senators should reject Jeff Sessions on the floor,” Piper said. “He must be stopped before he causes irreparable damage to our country.”
“The confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General would be a five-alarm threat to the more than 2 million medical cannabis patients and 44 state medical cannabis programs across the country,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “Sessions is an outspoken opponent of medical cannabis — and based off his testimony before the Senate, shows no signs of softening his position.
“As Attorney General, Sessions would have the exclusive authority to take direct action against medical cannabis patients and programs — something deeply concerning for patients who rely on cannabis treatment,” Sherer said. “Americans for Safe Access calls on President Trump to stand by his campaign pledge to support medical cannabis programs and direct his Attorney General to not use federal funds to take action against any medical cannabis patients or programs.
“Congress must also act and re-authorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which protects state medical cannabis programs from federal interference,” Sherer said. “Only Congress can prevent the Attorney General from targeting medical cannabis patients and programs, and until Congress enacts legislation that permanently ends the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws, millions of patients across the country will be in jeopardy.”
“If the Senate approves Jeff Sessions as Attorney General they will be elevating a true believer in outdated reefer madness rhetoric to the highest law enforcement post in the land,” said Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Until we have explicit confirmation from the Trump Administration or Senator Sessions himself that the federal government will not interfere with state marijuana laws, we are urging Senators to stand up for the will of the voters and the 60 percentof the country that supports legalization and ‘just say no’ to Sessions for Attorney General.”
“On a range of issues, Sen. Sessions would represent a return the bygone era of state repression against individuals rights,” said Justin Strekal, political director for NORML. “For marijuana in particular, in a day and age of legal dispensaries, it is troubling to see a man who called for the execution of marijuana distributors become the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
“It is imperative that Congress move forward on protections for states that have reformed their approach to marijuana to protect them from a rogue Justice Department,” Strekal said.