Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) on Wednesday said President Barack Obama made it harder for law enforcement officials and others to stop drug abuse by stating that marijuana was not more dangerous than alcohol.
"I gotta tell you, you said the messaging changed, and I think some people are irresponsible in what we are hearing particularly about marijuana," he told the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration during a Senate Judiciary hearing. "I thank you for you and some of your officials in DEA for speaking out and telling the truth about the dangers of marijuana. This is not a non-dangerous drug."
"And I've got to tell you, in terms of messaging, the president's statement, to me -- I spent 12 years working with grassroots citizens groups to change the approach to drugs and the climate of drugs, and to make it a hostile climate for drugs and explain the dangers of drug use. For one year we meet every single week, the mayor, the chief of police, the head of mental health and we discussed these issues."
"This is why it is so painful to me and to every person who had dedicated themselves and given time, effort and money to reversing drugs for the President of the United States to say, 'As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice not very different from cigarettes I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.'
Obama made those comments in an interview with New Yorker that was published in January.
"That is the President of the United States gratuitously making a statement of extraordinary importance that has the potential to eviscerate the work of thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands, really, who are trying to explain the dangers of drugs," Sessions said.
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told Sessions that she hadn't spoken to the president about the remarks. She was not aware if he had spoken to the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
"I don't think he talked with medical experts either," Sessions added.
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