Is Jeff Sessions the Modern Harry J. Anslinger?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions came into office with the promise of cracking down on cannabis – including medical marijuana – at the federal level.

In some ways, his mission seems to echo another famously anti-cannabis politician: Harry J. Anslinger of the 1930s Reefer Madness era in American history, when cannabis prohibition was in full swing. But will Sessions have the same effect on American culture, or has legal cannabis progressed too far?

The Associated Press, Huffington Post, Slate, Chicago Tribune and more recently reported that Sessions’ threats are full of smoke.

According to the AP report, “The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, a group of prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials, has come up with no new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general’s aggressively anti-marijuana views. The group’s report largely reiterates the current Justice Department policy on marijuana.”

Is Jeff Sessions The Modern Harry J. Anslinger?

Sessions’ comments on cannabis are comparable to Harry J. Anslinger’s quotes from nearly 100 years ago, when Anslinger was the the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Source: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 2017
Source: Harry J. Anslinger

Anslinger’s anti-cannabis propaganda legacy shaped the public’s understanding of the cannabis plant as a bad habit of society’s worst degenerates. He used what he called his “Gore Files” – a collection of quotes from police reports – to depict alleged offenses caused by drug users.

Sessions has been painting a similar picture of cannabis as a “dangerous” drug. Earlier this year, California and Oregon both submitted reports on the results of legal cannabis in their states to Sessions’ task force. Both reported positive effects on public safety and local economies.

Source: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 2016
Source: Harry J. Anslinger

Sessions responded with a July 24 letter, which states that “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a crime, . . . the Department remains committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in a manner that efficiently applies our resources to address the most significant threats to public health and safety.”

Source: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 2016
Source: Harry J. Anslinger


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