Does Jeff Sessions Hate Marijuana or People Who Use It?
Back in 1969, Merle Haggard wore and recorded the country hit “Okie from Muskogee” a love letter to small town America, extoling the virtues of simplicity and home spun wisdom. Haggard, recently released from prison, had about had it with the hippies who were protesting the Viet Nam war, the rest is musical crossover history. One of the themes of the song is about marijuana use, implicated as part of hippy culture and therefore “un-American”. Haggard made a fundamental error in his lyrics, one that is still pervasive in red state American culture today and one that is referred to by former Alabama Senator and current US attorney General, Jeff Sessions. “White Lightening is still the biggest thrill of all” croons Haggard, implying “at least we don’t smoke pot!” The message is paradoxical at best, “white lightning” refers to a home brewed substance that is usually or close to, grain alcohol. Flammable, toxic, and lethal, the stuff is poison. So, what’s with demonizing Cannabis? Haggard’s song was correct, even if he didn’t intend for that to happen, the criminalization of marijuana is about the culture of who consumes it and the culture which considers itself better than to do so. So why is alcohol more virtuous and acceptable than cannabis? You got me. Perhaps Jeff Sessions knows.
Throughout his career, Jeff Sessions has had a bone to pick with Cannabis. His statements are way out of synch with fact, reason, or common sense but completely consistent with the cultural war waged against users of cannabis. It seems that Sessions and Merle Haggard agree “good people don’t smoke marijuana”. Apparently, good people drink grain alcohol while lamenting the state of the cannabis user as a blight on the real America. Sessions own drinking habits are unknown, at least from the distance of asking from LA. Calls to all his past and current offices asking if Sessions drinks alcohol turned up nothing. One woman did muster ‘Honey, nobody is going to answer that”. Really? Why not? Are Sessions drinking habits a secret? It’s a simple question: “Does the attorney General drink alcohol?”. She is correct, nobody will answer. The question has been batted around from intern to intern with no response. Why does it matter? It matters because Sessions demonizes cannabis but supports alcohol, that’s just bad policy by any public health metric. Much of what Sessions says about Marijuana is just factually inaccurate but he doesn’t seem to care and if he doesn’t consume alcohol himself, he certainly doesn’t seem to mind when people do.
Before he was the US Attorney General. Jeff Sessions was a senator from Alabama. Alabama, has its problems per the website “Yellowhammer, all things Alabama” the state ranks 6th poorest in the union, ¼ of the population receives welfare benefits, that’s more than is enrolled in school. Alabama is faced with many health issues, obesity, smoking related diseases, opiate addiction and one that Sessions seems to forget, alcoholism. Thank God these people don’t smoke any weed, they might become lazy and in poor health. While Sessions makes, his presence felt and his anti-Marijuana stance heard, Alabama makes it really, easy to get drunk on the cheap. Alabama last raised taxes on alcohol in 1969, the very same year Merle Haggard wrote “Okie from Muskogee”. The tax on alcohol is $1.05 per gallon(alcoholjustice.org). In real terms, whatever damage is caused by that gallon of alcohol, the state has a whole $1.05 with which to clean up the mess.
Checking out the website of the Alabama alcohol beverage control commission one can gain insight into just how lax the attitude is about alcohol. The site features recipes for cocktails, one called “purple rain” is a kind of tribute to Prince. Other features of the site include such wisdom as “Drinking and driving don’t mix”. Digging into the archives, there was a stern warning that there was a shortage of “Pappy Van Winkle:” bourbon. Of all the amazing things discovered, none more amazing than who heads the organization. He’s a lifetime Alabama resident, Robert Lee, affectionately called “Bubba”. While I am not above making jokes about those outside of NYC and LA, I didn’t make this up, if I had, I would hope I could be more creative than the cartoonish cliché of creating a man named for a confederate general who is better known as “bubba”.
None of this would matter much save for the comedy if Session would have kept this in Alabama. What can we do? Nothing. Even if there was something that could be done, why would we do it? If the people of Alabama want to drink themselves to death while shaming consumers of a safer intoxicant, ok, have it but Sessions is now the Attorney General with the power to influence our lives and our communities. His mission against cannabis is now on a much larger stage and the stakes are higher.
So, what is it with Jeff Sessions and cannabis? Why does the substance bother him so? There are a few possibilities. Sessions has been dogged by claims of being a racist his whole career. the criminalization of drugs in general and specifically cannabis is inherently racist. White kids go to rehab or age out of cannabis use, black kids go to jail. Nuanced and defacto racism is worse than overt and upfront racism. As another possibility, Sessions has taken campaign contributions for liquor giant, Brown-Forman as well as beer wholesalers. Always wanting to appear “tough on crime” Sessions seeks to crack down on Cannabis use, bringing up the inherent conflict: is cannabis use “crime”? Whatever his reason, for a man whose home population hovers between illiterate and dying, it’s a very strange priority. Jeff Sessions is a smart guy, he can read research, or at least enough research to find fact regarding cannabis. Of course, that premise assumes he is remotely curious about what is right rather than being right.
Author: Joe Schrank, Editor in Chief