Daniel Shussett ’19 – Inside Politics Participant
According to a Washington Post article published on April 8th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tapped Steven Cook to be one of his new lieutenants in the new Trump administration.
Cook, previously president of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, is not only against marijuana legalization but expressly in favor of the war on drugs. In fact, Cook is on record as having stated that “the federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as designed.”
Regardless of your view on drugs in the United States, this quote should raise some red flags. The tough-on-crime Trump administration believes that a system that has more small-scale possession marijuana arrests than violent crimes is a system that is functioning well. The New York Times points out that “a disproportionate number of those arrested are African-Americans, who smoke marijuana at rates similar to whites but are arrested and prosecuted far more often for having small amounts for personal use.” If this is the criminal justice system working exactly as designed, maybe we should consider some reforms.
Of course, the stances of Cook, Sessions, and the Trump administration as a whole make sense if one accepts their unsubstantiated views of marijuana. In fact, Sessions himself has stated that “our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad – it will destroy your life.”
Mr. Sessions, drugs certainly will destroy your life, but you have the wrong drugs in mind.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opioid overdoses led to 33,000 deaths in 2015 (this number includes both prescription painkillers and heroin overdoses). Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s current fact sheet on marijuana states that no deaths from overdoses on marijuana have led to death. Given that a study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research found that “the annual rate of opioid overdose deaths decreased substantially — by 25 percent on average — following the passage of medical marijuana laws, compared to states that still had bans,” perhaps Mr. Sessions should re-examine which drugs he wishes to target to truly make America safe again.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the other benefits of marijuana legalization, such as increasing tax revenue, creating more room for violent criminals to incarcerated, and promoting consumer safety. Sessions has even called into question the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, claiming that the benefits are overhyped. The Trump administration’s decision to target marijuana usage rather than the unchecked rise in opioid overdoses is not only ill-informed but a threat to American public health.
The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.