Dear Senator Sessions:
First, I want to congratulate you on your selection as U.S. Attorney General. While I may disagree with some of your positions, I am glad that the United States will finally have an Attorney General who takes the law seriously, and champions equal justice under the law.
On November 8 and in years past, several states voted to legalize marijuana for recreational and/or medical use. While I myself am not a user of this substance, I do have concerns that the Department of Justice will attempt to reverse the great strides our nation has made toward the ending of draconian laws and failed policies where drug use is concerned. I fear that the legalization in these states will be in jeopardy under your Department of Justice, given some statements that you have made in the past regarding the use of recreational drugs in America. In April 2016, the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control convened a hearing at which you are quoted to say about cannabis, “this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
While I agree with the first part of your above statement, I do find your insinuation that people who smoke marijuana are “bad people” to be, frankly, offensive. Millions of responsible adults use cannabis every day for treatment of depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, side effects of cancer treatment, and yes, recreational use as well. Besides that, is it the role of the government to define morality? Is it responsible governance to say, “This drug is bad for you and we won’t allow you to take it because we’re the government and we say so?” I know that we can treat the health risk of drugs seriously without treating users as bad people or felons. I absolutely support a strong stance against trafficking, illegal sales, and sales of hard drugs. I agree that marijuana can potentially pose a health risk but we can take a common-sense approach to this problem, emphasize treatment, education, and rehabilitation, and keep cannabis from minors (except medicinal use under strict parental and medical supervision). But if grown-up, responsible hard working tax-paying citizens just want to smoke a joint in the privacy of their living room after a hard day’s work, why should that be any of the government’s business? I will posit that favoring an end to drug prohibition is the right thing to do BECAUSE of Conservative principles, NOT in spite of them.
I approach this matter from a personal freedom and states’ rights point-of-view. If a liberal opposed drug legalization, then while I obviously wouldn’t agree with it, at least they’d be consistent, since the progressive left favors top-down government regulation and nanny-state laws. Yes some people will do risky things, some people will get addicted and suffer medical consequences. However, if they know these risks and take them anyway, isn’t that their decision and their responsibility? I simply believe that it’s not the government’s role to be the moral authority over our behavior. One of the many causes that Conservatives and Libertarians have in common is our goal for a free society, less government regulation and more personal freedom. If we truly follow these principles to their logical conclusion, then our insistence on enforcing personal morality through force of law, especially in the face of growing public anti-prohibition opinion, seems an inconsistent position. The Conservative in me believes in American values, believes in law & order and keeping Americans safe. The Libertarian in me, however, believes that making honest citizens into felons and ruining their lives for nothing more than possessing a plant is both draconian and retrograde to the free society that our Founders fought for.
What about medical use? While I will agree that medical use has not been proven by the FDA, we are caught in a vicious circle: The DEA schedules marijuana in Schedule I because there’s no proven medical use, there’s no proven medical use because proper research cannot be done, and proper research cannot be done because the DEA schedules it. And around and around we go… But to make an absolutist claim that cannabis will never have medical use – that it’s a sham, a fraud, and we’re so convinced of our moral superiority that we’re not even going to try to find out – that to me is, honestly a cruel stance to take. I pray that neither you nor I, or anyone we’re close to will never be in a position where we are in such dire medical circumstances, and a government official comes up to us and denies us this effective treatment because, “we’re the government and we say so.”
In conclusion, I don’t write this letter with an expectation of changing your mind on the subject, for you to agree with marijuana use, or even to accept it. I would hope someday for full nationwide legalization. But for the time being, I do hope at the very least that you and others in President Trump’s administration who have interest in this topic take these points to heart, promise to approach the subject with an open mind, and not deny Americans the freedom to determine their own destiny. I implore the Justice Department to respect the individual rights of U.S. Citizens, respect the Tenth Amendment and the sovereignty of states that have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana. As Americans, we can differ strongly on lifestyle choices and yet still recognize other people’s rights to make those choices.