In a speech to state attorneys general, Jeff Sessions continued his criticisms of cannabis legalization this morning. The remarks come on the heels of his first press briefing, where he had some harsh words for the policy.
“We need to crack down more effectively” on drugs, he said.
“My best view is we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana,” said Sessions at a meeting for the National Association of Attorneys General. “I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.” (Editor’s note: marijuana is not being sold at grocery stores in states that have legalized it.)
Sessions also cast doubt on the claim that access to legal cannabis can help mitigate the opioid crisis.
“Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse? Give me a break,” said Sessions with a smile. “It’s just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”
Here’s the thing: science has already proven him wrong. Besides scientific evidence that shows medical cannabis can help treat opioid use disorders, various studies have shown that the availability of medical marijuana is associated with decreased rates of opioid abuse. While this does not amount to proving that “marijuana is a cure,” the available scientific evidence does show that it is a promising avenue to tackling the problem.
In 2014, researchers from Johns Hopkins found a significant association between state-legal medical cannabis and a decrease in opioid overdose rates.
“In absolute terms, states with a medical marijuana law had about 1,700 fewer opioid painkiller overdose deaths in 2010 than would be expected based on trends before the laws were passed,” said lead author Marcus Bachhuber in a statement announcing the results.
Last year, an analysis of Medicare data found that “the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented.”
“This administration should respect science,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, in a statement about the attorney general’s comments. “At the very least, [it] needs to uphold the president’s repeated campaign pledges to respect state cannabis laws.”
“If the attorney general really cares about public health and safety, he’ll stop relying on ‘alternative facts’ to prop up an outdated ‘Reefer Madness’ view of marijuana.”
At least one state attorney general plans to push back:
Gen. Sessions tells state AGs "We don't need to be legalizing marijuana." AG Coffman ready to share our CO experience and insight with him. pic.twitter.com/VuO67ECmaD
— CO Attorney General (@COAttnyGeneral) February 28, 2017