'Lives are at stake': GOP senator suggests marijuana can be deadly
Senator Jeff Sessions speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

A U.S. senator on Thursday connected President Barack Obama's comments on marijuana to drug overdose deaths.


Amid a lengthy speech calling for increased penalties for drug offenders, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) noted that Obama had admitted to smoking marijuana. Last year, the president said that marijuana is not more dangerous than alcohol.

"I think it needs to be said that the president should never have said smoking marijuana is like smoking cigarettes: 'Oh, I wish I hadn't done it,' Sessions said on the Senate floor. "That is the kind of message people hear. Now we have states legalizing it, and they are already talking about recriminalizing it. It is a mistake. We have seen that experiment before. Lives are at stake."

The Republican senator linked marijuana to fatal overdoses -- even though experts say it is impossible to die from consuming too much of the drug.

"The Drug Enforcement Administration called me recently and told me that 120 people a day are dying of a drug overdose in America," he continued. "How many of them have serious brain injuries as a result of those overdoses? Our Presiding Officer, Dr. Cassidy, has been around emergency rooms. How many people are taken to emergency rooms and at what great cost to our communities? How many lives are disrupted? How many children are in broken homes? How many people had to leave their home because one spouse or the other has spent all the family money on drugs to support a habit? How many children have been abandoned, went to bed without food because of addiction in their family?"

Sessions said the federal government should take harsher actions to combat drug use.

"These are serious matters," he remarked. "We made tremendous progress. The murder rate in America dropped by over 50 percent since the 1980s when Ronald Reagan said 'just say no' and started a War on Crime. He appointed me as the U.S. attorney in Alabama. I know what we did. And the federal government led the way with tough sentencing, eliminating parole, targeting dangerous drugs in effective ways, and states and local governments followed."

"I am worried about it," Sessions said. "It is just tragic to me that we are making the same mistakes we made in the 1960s and 1970s. According to new data, 4.3 million people abuse or are dependent on marijuana. Marijuana is stronger today--several times stronger--than the marijuana of the 1960s, and it does impact people adversely."

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