He said it before, and he's saying it again: Jeff Sessions, U.S. Attorney General, does not like legalized marijuana. He confirmed, according to Forbes on September 20, 2017, that “Federal law remains in effect.” What that means is clear: marijuana use is illegal federally as a controlled substance and absent a distinction between medical and recreational use, the federal government could take action in states where marijuana is legal in either of these capacities. In the same press conference, Forbes also quotes Jeff Sessions stating, “We do know that legalization results in greater use.” He tries to use this claim to support reason to crackdown on legalization. The statement seems to imply that legal recreational use of marijuana increases use, i.e., marijuana is available, so people use it who may not have used it before legalization or people who consumed marijuana before legalization use it more post legalization. Whichever point he meant, a newly published study on October 11, 2017 refutes his claim.
According to this study, legalization policies are an effect of changing attitudes and behaviors associated with marijuana consumption, not the other way around. Therefore, the “greater use” of marijuana is actually the result of an increase in social acceptance of it, and the increase in social acceptance of it has provoked policy changes to legalize recreational use along with medical use. The authors of the study point out, however, that legalization has increased one important factor: people who have or continue to use marijuana in some capacity no longer feel inhibited to deny their use of it. If the latter is the case, then statistics of marijuana use prior to any or some medical legalization may be lower than actual number due to the fear of some to confess use of it when it was a criminal activity.
Before this press conference was held by Jeff Sessions on September 20th, he criticized Washington state's legal marijuana system specifically. In early August 2017, Sessions sent a letter to top Washington officials, and upon receipt of that letter, according to the Seattle Times, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the letter “raises concerns significantly” that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions would get tough on legal marijuana in the state. Governor Jay Inslee, however, said, “Honestly, it's hard to take [Sessions] seriously if he relies on such outdated information.” In the letter, according to Seattle Times, Sessions "outdated information" was used to support Sessions concern for “a lack of medical-marijuana regulations leading to a growth in the black market for pot.” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, according to Seattle Times, said “Sessions' concerns come from an early 2016 law-enforcement report before the state merged a largely unregulated medical system with its strictly regulated recreational system.”
Jeff Session may indeed be pulling at strings, trying to find anything that can support his ideology. But with society turning towards de-criminalization with 61 percent of Americans supporting legalization and with Senator Cory Booker (Democrat, New Jersey) introducing the first most serious bill to date to legalize marijuana throughout the United States, Jeff Sessions may need to rethink his beliefs. As culture influences policy on marijuana legalization, maybe policy will one day influence Sessions to acknowledge marijuana legalization is likely here to stay. It's time to stop reconsidering marijuana's legalization and put that time and effort into something constructive: say, developing a test to accurately indicate if a person is driving under the influence of marijuana illegally so that persons using marijuana legally and driving legally are not wrongfully arrested.