The incoming Trump administration is appointing thousands of politicos to fill the jobs left by Democratic Obama officials, and the highest-ranking position of the judiciary branch could be going to a Senator accused of being an anti-pot racist.
“I think one of [Obama’s] great failures…has been obvious to me, is his lax treatment and comments on marijuana. It reverses twenty years …of hostility towards drugs begun when Nancy Reagan started the ‘Just Say No’ program,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at a caucus meeting in April on The Hill.
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” continued the southern Republican at The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control meeting on the state of recreational marijuana.
A former attorney in the early 80’s during the Reagan administration, Sen. Sessions was the most outspoken against marijuana at the caucus meeting. The name of the meeting, “Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization” speaks to the GOP’s anti-pot agenda.
There’s no sugar coating it: Trump’s pick for Attorney General is anti-cannabis.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Case Against Cannabis in Congress
Many people who have worked with the Alabama politician have accused him of racism, too. Back in 1986, Sessions was tapped for a federal judgeship – it was a messy confirmation hearing. His dirty laundry was paraded in front of all to see. It cost him the judgeship.
“Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era, which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past,” the late Massachusetts Democrat, Sen. Edward Kennedy, said during a 1986 confirmation hearing. “It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a U.S. federal judge.”
Most of the Senators who voted against him are no longer in office, except for Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
His confirmation hearing looms
Checks and balances remain as Sessions must go through another confirmation hearing by his peers to claim the seat of AG, and head of the United States Department of Justice.
Sen. Leahy, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted against Sessions once but said he deserves a fair shot.
“Senator Sessions and I have had significant disagreements over the years, particularly on civil rights, voting rights, immigration and criminal justice issues. But unlike Republicans’ practice of unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, I believe nominees deserve a full and fair process before the Senate. The American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.”
In the Senate, the Republicans have a close 52-48 advantage. There’s still upcoming Senate elections but it basically means that Sessions cannot afford to lose any votes from his side of the aisle.
According to the Associate Press, the last time the Senate rejected one of its own was in 1989 when then-Sen. John G. Tower, a Texas Republican, could not get confirmed as President George H. W. Bush’s defense secretary amid reports of heavy drinking and womanizing.
Senator Graham’s back-handed compliment
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would support a Sessions nomination. Pay close attention to the he “earned the right” part.
“I’d vote for him. I like Jeff. He was the early, only supporter for Donald Trump in the Senate,” Graham said. “And I believe Jeff Sessions has earned the right to serve President Trump in the highest levels, and I think he’s a good, competent, capable man.”
Sen. Graham ran against Trump for the White House and was front row to the bullying tactics that afforded him the election. Sen. Sessions was an early supporter of Trump when most others, including GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and Graham, couldn’t.
Sen. Graham is a Republican marijuana ally
At a July hearing titled “Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana,” Graham seemed open to the idea of cannabinoid research. His opinion is in stark contrast to his conservative state, that hasn’t even passed a medical marijuana bill.
Graham’s open-mindedness on the controversial issue goes back to when he was in his early 20’s and his mother was battling stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
He wrote about in his autobiography, which was released just before he entered the 2016 presidential race. Titled My Story, Graham tells of his mother’s horrible fight. She ultimately died, and having seen her go through chemotherapy is what fuels his interest in the therapeutic value of the plant.
“I am open-minded to the idea that the plant may have medical attributes that could help people,” he told Politico.
“I’m convinced that we should, as a nation, research the medical applications of the marijuana plant…It could be life-changing. I just want to do it in a scientific way…and the current system doesn’t allow for the research that we need,” said Graham.
In March, Graham put his vote in-line with his rhetoric and signed on as a sponsor of the CARERS Act, becoming only the third Republican to do so.
The CARERS Act stands for the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S. 683); it’s a bill aimed at helping veterans get access to the medicine and grant access to medical research through rescheduling the drug. It was introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Choose Graham instead
Both Sessions and Graham are long serving southern Republicans, and they are both on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would be a gesture of reconciliation to a nation divided if Trump were to withdraw his nomination for Sessions and put Graham up for the spot instead. It’s not an all-access pass for cannabis, but as AG, Graham already has the middle ground.
Conservatives like Sen. Graham, who support research, are still weary of stigmas and propaganda.
“There is a chance for abuse here, we don’t know what we are doing,” said Sen. Graham at a medical marijuana hearing on The Hill.
Any support from the Right is better than none. Remember, the Republican National Committee decided not to endorse or even mention medical marijuana in their 2016 platform.
“The Attorney General serves as the chief law enforcement officer in the country,” wrote Sen. Leahy in his statement on the nomination of Sessions.
Leahy, who is second in command of the Senate Judiciary Committee, outlined the role of the U.S. Attorney General:
- Must be independent and fair
- Be deeply committed to the rule of law
- Ensure that all people are treated equally before the law
“This means that he or she is also the chief protector of civil rights and civil liberties for everyone in our Nation,” Leahy continued in his statement on the nomination. “That has never been more important than in this moment, when hate crimes have spiked across the country, especially against Muslim and LGBTQ Americans. And when we have a President-elect who has proposed religious tests, a return to torture, and a deportation force that threatens to remove millions of immigrants.”
Sessions supports The War on Drugs
It’s daunting to think about putting a politician who denies the failed war on drugs in charge of prosecution for it. Especially since The New York Times, The British Medical Journal, and countless others agree – it was just bad policy.
Despite the growing facts against the war on drugs, Sessions remains a fan, calling it ‘positive’.
“[The War on Drugs] was a prevention movement — it really was so positive and it led to this decline. That creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it’s not funny, it’s not something to laugh about and trying to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
More pot, more problems
“This is as obvious as night following day, you make more marijuana more available you basically say it’s not very dangerous and that young people have a right to participate with it and us older people do too, you’re going to have more problems,” said Sen. Sessions in one of his anti-pot rants.
Session’s confirmation hearing could happen as early as January.