Jeff Sessions’ Terrible Truth About Drugs Is a Lie

Jacob Sullum,

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared last week. The main problem with that message: It isn’t true.

Yes, using drugs, both legal and illegal ones, can destroy your life, but typically it doesn’t. By arguing that drug education should proceed from a false premise, Sessions reminds us what was wrong with the Just Say No propaganda he would like to revive.

Sessions, a former senator who was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in the 1980s, looks back proudly at his efforts, alongside Nancy Reagan, to “create a hostility to drug use.” For Sessions, as for Reagan, tolerance is a dirty word.

“We must create an atmosphere of intolerance for drug use in this country,” the first lady wrote in a 1986 Washington Post op-ed piece. “Each of us has a responsibility to be intolerant of drug use anywhere, anytime, by anybody.”

Sessions likewise emphasizes the importance of “preventing people from ever taking drugs in the first place,” even if “this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use.” The “prevention” Sessions favors is not simply unfashionable; it is fundamentally dishonest.

Among other things, Sessions said at a Senate hearing last April, prevention aims to teach teenagers that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, something like 118 million Americans have used marijuana, 36 million of them in the last year. Does Sessions honestly think all those people are bad, or that anyone would believe they are?

“Educating people and telling them the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices,” Sessions says. But his terrible truth sounds a lot like a lie.

Sessions claims marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin, and in 2014 he strenuously objected after President Obama conceded that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. “I’m heartbroken,” Sessions said. “It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension.”

Judging from his response, Sessions literally did not comprehend Obama’s point. Sessions tried to rebut Obama’s statement about the relative hazards of marijuana and alcohol by declaring that “Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”

sessionsdruglies_small Jeff Sessions' Terrible Truth About Drugs Is a Lie Truth

Let’s put aside the merits of treating Lady Gaga as an expert on the effects of marijuana, or of extrapolating from this sample of one to the experiences of cannabis consumers generally.

The most disturbing aspect of Sessions’ argument was his failure to grasp that one substance can be less dangerous than another without being harmless.

Saying marijuana is less hazardous than alcohol by several important measures — including impairment of driving ability, the risk of a fatal overdose, and the long-term damage caused by heavy use — is not the same as saying marijuana is 100 percent safe. Sessions not only has no patience for such nuance; he considers it a menace to the youth of America.

Sessions is especially offended by the suggestion that marijuana legalization could reduce opioid-related harm by providing a safer alternative. “Give me a break,” he said in a recent speech to the National Association of Attorneys General. “It’s just almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits.”

Uncharacteristically, Sessions conceded that “maybe science will prove I’m wrong.” If he bothered to research the subject, he would discover that several studies have found an association between medical marijuana laws and reductions in opioid prescriptions, opioid-related deaths, and fatally injured drivers testing positive for opioids.

Sessions plainly is not interested in what the evidence shows. Although he says law enforcement officials have a duty to “speak truth as best we can,” he seems to view truth as the enemy in the war on drugs. Nancy Reagan, who said drug use “isn’t fun” and insisted “you cannot separate drug use that ‘doesn’t hurt anybody’ from drug use that kills,” would have been proud.

  • DrArtaud

    Have I a bone to pick with the author. I trained in tech school as an optician, electronics technician, pharmacy technician, then landed a job in maintenance in “the mill”, paying more than the optician or pharmacy technician ever would have.

    But opticianry, and pharmacy, share a few points. Both require a prescription for many of the services or products, and both have standards that are applied in the manufacture of products.

    Even alcohol products, though sold commercially, are made uniformly, they are tracked by manufacturer and lot numbers, lot numbers can be recalled if a problem is found, and overall a system of safety is in place for the product itself. And, the products are dispensed in tamper evident containers.

    If commercial sales of marijuana is to occur, it must be at minimum made uniform in batch, have some indicator as to the strength of the batch, list all ingredients, preferably be dispensed in tamper evident containers, be tracked by manufacturer and lot number, etc.

    If medical marijuana is to be dispensed it should require a prescription and be subjected to more rigorous standards than commercial grades, and should be manufactured like any other pharmaceutical product, not at Jim Bob’s Pot Emporium.

    How this country ever came to be duped by medical marijuana is beyond me, I’m not saying it doesn’t work, I am saying that inconsistencies in the various batches of marijuana disqualify it from being a pharmaceutical product unless manufactured consistently.

    I believe compound Breathalyzers can be developed to test for alcohol and marijuana. If not, two devices can be used.

    Article: Cannabix Technologies Inc. is a leader in marijuana breathalyzer development for law enforcement and the workplace.

    An interesting aspect of respiration is that substances in the blood are metabolized by the liver, kidneys, and given off in respiration. An easy to understand example is garlic. Hours after eating it, gargle all you want, you can’t get rid of the smell on your breath. The reason is it’s being given off in respiration.

    What Causes Garlic Breath and How to Get Rid of it.

    The compound that causes the breath that comes from the lungs to smell like garlic is allyl methyl sulfide (AMS). AMS is a gas which is absorbed into the blood during the metabolism of garlic. From the blood it is transferred to the lungs where it is then exhaled. Some of this AMS is even excreted from the pores of the skin. This is why garlic breath is so hard to get rid of at times. No matter how much you clean and brush your mouth, the garlic odor will still be in the air you exhale because it comes from the lungs.

    Of course, home grown marijuana is different, but law enforcement and employers need devices which can detect inappropriate use of it (before work or before driving). Lastly, employers are free, unfortunately, to ban substances used by employees. Years ago, even though I’m a non-smoker, I railed against employers that banned cigarette smoking by employees, even when the employees are at home. Likewise, legalization of marijuana doesn’t translate into everyone being able to use it. Employers will be able to ban it’s use at home and back up the ban by periodic drug testing.

    Well, that’s my two cents. I’m not against it, I understand alcohol has many similar problems, but there must be consistencies and trackabilities in the product.