Jeff Sessions: Marijuana Can't Be Safer Than Alcohol Because 'Lady Gaga Says She's Addicted to It'


Senate Judiciary Committee

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) looks back proudly at his efforts, alongside Nancy Reagan, to "create a hostility to drug use" in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, Sessions was not pleased by President Obama's recent comments about the relative hazards of marijuana and alcohol, as he explained to Attorney General Eric Holder during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today:

I have to tell you, I'm heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It's stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension….This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that….Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that? 

Sessions, by contrast, clearly did his homework. He rebutted Obama's observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol by citing a renowned expert on substance abuse:

Lady Gaga says she's addicted to it and it is not harmless.

I have been covering drug policy for about 25 years, and I am still sometimes startled by what passes for an argument among prohibitionists. What should we conclude from this sample of one about the hazards posed by marijuana? That it can be taken to excess, like every other fun thing on the face of the planet? That some people say they have trouble consuming it in moderation? Didn't we know both of those things before Dr. Gaga's earthshaking discovery?

More to the point, what does the possibility of addiction tell us about the truth of the statement Obama made—i.e., that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol? After all, "less dangerous" does not mean "harmless." As Holder observed, "any drug used in an inappropriate way can be harmful," and "alcohol is among those drugs." To evaluate relative hazards, we have to dig a little deeper.

According to one widely cited study, based on data from the National Comorbidity Survey, "dependence" is nearly 70 percent more common among drinkers than it is among pot smokers. So even by this measure, marijuana looks less dangerous. That's without considering differences in acute toxicity, driving impairment, and the long-term effects of heavy consumption, all of which weigh strongly in marijuana's favor.

Gaga was not the only authority cited by Sessions. He also mentioned former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy, chairman of the anti-pot group Project SAM, who according to the senator "says the president is wrong on this subject." Yet here is what Kennedy said during a recent debate on CNN with my colleague Nick Gillespie:

I agree with the president. Alcohol is more dangerous.

Sessions was on firmer ground when he pressed Holder to admit that "if marijuana is legalized for adults, it makes it more available for young people." As I've said before, it is likely that legalization in Colorado and Washington will be accompanied by an increase in underage consumption. While the newly legal marijuana stores are not allowed to serve anyone younger than 21, there will be a certain amount of leakage from adults to "minors" (who in this case include a bunch of people who in most other respects are considered adults), as there is with alcohol. Buying marijuana may become more difficult for people younger than 21 (assuming the black market eventually withers away), but that does not mean obtaining marijuana will be more difficult. Some teenagers and young adults will get pot by swiping it from parents or older siblings, and some legal buyers will have no qualms about sharing with older teenagers or 20-year-olds (although that will remain illegal). Given this reality, Holder's response to Sessions' concern about underage access is a bit troubling:

One of our eight priorities is the prevention of distribution of marijuana to minors. If there's an indication that marijuana is being distributed to minors, that would require federal involvement….

Young people find ways to get alcohol because adults can have access to it. I'm not sure that we'll see the same thing here given what we have said with regard to our enforcement priorities.

Holder is referring to the eight issues the Justice Department expects Colorado and Washington to address as the price of federal forbearance, one of which is "preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors." If that means stopping state-licensed stores from selling marijuana to people younger than 21, it can be accomplished through strict enforcement of the states' age limits. But if it means preventing 21-year-olds from sharing marijuana with their 19-year-old friends or brothers, it is not a realistic expectation. It is more like an excuse to crack down whenever the president gets tired of sniping by diehard drug warriors like Sessions.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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  1. I can tell you from personal experience that Sessions is a moron. I mean an award-winning idiot.

    1. makes you proud to be from AL, doesn’t it.

    2. And from that we may conclude that it is most common for morons to be Senators, can we not?

    3. Sessions is a turd that needs to be flushed.

  2. Alcohol could lead one to vote for Jeff Sessions.

  3. Unlike marijuana, addiction to power really does harm society. I offer as my first exhibit the hysterical Senator Sessions, a long-time control addict.

  4. Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless.

    But, Senator, was she wearing her poker face when she said that?

    1. Nope, just her toker face.

      1. But that’s my face!

        1. She toke it from you.

          I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

          1. If I had rotten produce, you’d be on the receiving end.

            1. And I’d have a salad. Win-win!

  5. Who’s the gal pictured behind Sessions who looks like she’s rather be anywhere else?

    1. Ha! It’s *Lady Gaga*!

    2. Emily Ekins? Lance Armstrong in a wig?

  6. I’m a little confused by this. So Lady Gaga said she was addicted to weed and she went all crazy. But since she stopped taking the weed she’s all normal now.

    Has anyone seen Lady Gaga? I can call her many things, but normal is certainly not one of them.

    1. Wouldn’t the marijuana use impeach her credibility? I mean, how do we really know she’s addicted?

      1. Have you listened to her music?

        She has to be on SOMETHING.

        1. It’s so sad…..she’s mainlining a tragic lack of talent.

        2. Oh, did she start doing music?


        3. Come on, man, “Poker Face” is a great fucking song. Plus I killed with it at the holiday karaoke party.

          (mic drop)

          1. (picks up mic, throws it at epi)

            1. Don’t take my word for it, take Cartman’s.

          2. Please tell me all of this is true.

            1. What, singing “Poker Face” at the holiday party? Absolutely, and only after a few martinis too. And I finished it with a mic drop and walked off the stage. It was very popular. However, my boss tried to show me up by doing some Journey (“Don’t Stop Believing”) right after.

      2. She wore a meat dress. Not sayin’ it was the Mary Jane, but it was something.

        1. There are some indications that marijuana use may exacerbate an underlying psychosis…

          Just saying.

          If you’re already fucked up, da ganja could make it worse.

    2. I am a fan of her/his existence, as I find her/him as much of a subtly clever parody of a vanity idol as s/he is a vanity idol.

      1. That part I’m with you on. She’s so frickin weird it’s hard to tell if she’s joking about vanity or totally serious.

        Let that freak flag fly.

        But the music? She should probably go back to smoking weed.

        1. S/he’s said some shit, too, that I can’t remember, but seemed to be mocking other ones who are dead serious about their vanity. Like meta humor. I wish I could remember what I’m thinking of.

          1. She’s dating this guy, so he must have a screw loose.

    3. Well, you see she made her meat dress after she kicked the Devil Plant. Before that, she was stitching together an evening dress for live kittens and the skins of unwed teenage mothers.

      See? Not crazy any more.

      1. *from, not for. Although, technically, the typo was crazier-sounding.

    4. Are you suggesting the weed wasn’t the problem?

  7. “how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that….Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that?”

    Did attorney generalS or any prior president ever conduct such? Did Sen. Jeff Sessions?

    1. Unfortunately, medical experiments regarding marijuana are kind of impractical, you know, because it’s illegal.

    2. why the hypercorrection?

      1. I hate the way attorneys general sounds.

  8. Shucks. It’s a shame Michael Jackson isn’t still here to add his two cents.

  9. Some teenagers and young adults will get pot by swiping it from parents or older siblings

    -Joe Piscapo

    1. I enjoy collecting protection money, putting whores to work, loan-sharking. I enjoy planting bombs in people’s cars. These are a few of my favorite things.

      Danny Vermin

      1. Somanabeesh! Shu ju fargin mouth, ju fargin icehole

  10. Every time you start to feel a little bit better about TEAM STUPID one of them goes and opens his/her mouth…..sigh.


    1. Obama still too authoritarian for my tastes, but there’s clear daylight between him and Sessions. It takes a certain skill to be more authoritarian than Obama.

      1. I’m referring specifically to the issue of marijuana. Obama sucks as much as ever on other issues.

      2. Sessions ever order any executions?

        1. Read his other comment. He clarified that he was only talking about the issue of marijuana.

        2. Well, so far as I know he was never a judge, so probably not. Would you want to give him a shot at the White House to find out?

        3. Sessions is a former prosecutor. So, yes.

  11. “it is likely that legalization in Colorado and Washington will be accompanied by an increase in underage consumption”

    How so, if previously everyone was underage? The people under 21 would have to consume massive ridiculous quantities of cannabis to make up for the overall net loss of underage consumers.

    1. “if marijuana is legalized for adults, it makes it more available for young people.”

      Really because I’ve never met a high school student who could find it if they really wanted it. Maybe not when they wanted it but, still.

      1. couldn’t*

        Ugh, threading.

    2. I went to high school (graduated a few years ago) in a part of California where a solid majority of kids smoked marijuana, or at least tried it at some point before they graduated. It was way easier to get marijuana than alcohol.

      1. Where was this wonderful place?

        1. San Luis Obispo. Any kid in the school could just talk to any of their numerous fellow students who dealt weed, and get it pretty soon. It wasn’t extremely hard to get alcohol, but people generally had to get an older sibling, cousin, or friend to get it for them. Marijuana was definitely easier and quicker to get.

          1. Funny. Last time I was in SLO (Cayucos, about 5 years ago), I kept getting carded at the bars. I am clearly over 21, and don’t get carded anywhere else.

      2. Twenty years ago in Annapolis, Maryland, you could buy pretty much any amount of mj you’d care to during regular high school hours, with zero notice. For some really, really dank bud you might have to get in early before it ran out, and you’d usually need to put in a special order for kine, but it was orders of magnitude easier to get bud than it was to get booze. Or so I heard. From a friend.

  12. I am increasingly troubled by the “alcohol is just as/more dangerous as pot” riff, especially when mouthed by statists like Obama and Chuck Schumer, and professional nannies like the Economist magazine, which recently ran a story calling for alcohol taxes to be raised worldwide because alcohol allegedly causes people to kill their fellow citizens. Add in the Centers for Disease Control defining couples who split a bottle of wine with dinner as “binge drinkers” who need assistance, and this seems to be less of a movement to reform marihuana laws than a movement toward a form of New Prohibition. Even the use of the term, “alcohol” is reminiscent of how the word “tobacco” was demonized in the 1990s.

    1. I hear what you’re saying, but remember alcohol has been dealing with this for the longest time. There are always people who want to ban alcohol or make it much harder to get. They’ve only (sort of) succeeded once, and that was a miserable failure.

    2. One day, you’ll see legal marijuana and illegal KFC in California. South Park had it right.

  13. I lot of drug prohibitions say that medicinal marijuana laws have led to increased underage usage in those states. But one study I found indicates that underage usage was already more common in those states compared to non-MM states before the laws were passed.

  14. I’m surprised nobody mentioned the real flaw in the argument.

    The flaw is the assumption that potentially dangerous things should be banned.

    1. How about we just potentially ban potentially dangerous things?

      1. Why don’t we ban bans?

      2. ok, cars, electricity, elevators, sharp sticks… the list goes on..

        1. Oxygen is a “Dangerous” reactive element.

    2. Or maybe that flaw is recognized so thoroughly that the thought of bringing it up on automatically does not register due to its redundancy.

  15. Meanwhile, the latest missive from 3CP1, er, MPR, is up on synthetic drugs:…..rug-report

    “Essentially what we need to do is put another tool or two into the toolbox to give law enforcement and prosecutors a better opportunity to control this problem in their own communities,” he said.

    Another recommendation would expand the definition of “drug” in state law to include any compound or substance that induces an effect “substantially similar” to a known illegal drug. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said the makers of synthetic drugs have avoided prosecution by simply adjusting their formulas.

    Or, we could legalize a much safer drug, say marijuana, so those same people wouldn’t need to pick the more dangerous substitutes. Or we could recognize that people have the right to be morons. Look at whom they vote for.

    1. “Evading prosecution” is in this case another term for “complying with the law”, right?

      I’m strongly reminded of the gun control laws that get passed banning the manufacture of any gun with pointless cosmetic feature X, and then when companies produce similar guns that lack feature X, in compliance with the law, we start seeing articles about how gun manufacturers have found “loopholes”.

      1. Damn you, you are evading prosecution by complying with the law!

  16. “Addiction” is another one of those words that has lost all meaning.

    1. Users are abusers. One taste and you’re addicted for life. Addiction is a disease, and prison is the cure.

      1. true, but you’ll have to pry my bottle of water out of my cold, dead hands…

    2. I am addicted to being a racist.

  17. Yes, foolish, error ridden arguments are being made in Congress against marijuana legalization. But these arguments are being made in an environment of increased skepticism and vigorous counter-argument. Most importantly, open debate about the legalization of marijuana is occurring at the Federal level, proponents aren’t being dismissed as crazy and the prohibitionists appear to be on the defense.

    Once more: today open debate contemplating the legalization of marijuana is occurring at the Federal level. Try believing that ten years ago.

  18. Joe Seary is not going to like that at all man.

  19. It is more like an excuse to crack down whenever the president gets tired of sniping by diehard drug warriors like Sessions.

    And again Reason writers shift the blame for Obama’s actions onto someone else. Amazing.

    1. Tulpa, you’re back!

      Now go away.

      1. Seconded.

        All in favor?

    2. How is it shifting when this is an article about the fucktard Sessions?

    1. Holy shit; it takes a special brand of statist to have a bunch of Republicans in 1990 water down your anti-drug bill.

  20. Every Alabamian must cringe the moment that moron opens his mouth, knowing that he is going to embarrass the whole state.

    1. And yet they re-elect him without any trouble.

  21. The important question is: Did Lady Gaga grow a penis before or after her marijuana use?

    1. If marijuana is in any way responsible for giving us Lady Gaga, then by all means, keep it illegal! Indeed, attach a death penalty to it!

  22. “I have been covering drug policy for about 25 years, and I am still sometimes startled by what passes for an argument among prohibitionists.” That provoked a belly laugh. I am dependent on coffee, and many would confirm that I am dangerously grumpy without it, but fortunately Starbucks has made it ridiculously easy for me to get my fix.

  23. Given how addicted to power Sessions is, it seems to me we should prohibit politicians from wielding any power, except for dealing with those who attack the US, or who those harm fellow citizens. Of course, Sessions’ actions harming fellow citizens, via taking more money from them, perhaps he should be put in jail.

  24. “Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that?”

    Perhaps Obama relied on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s research. . . after completing said research, Dr. Gupta said, “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”

    Something tells me that Dr. Gupta is somewhat more reliable than Dr. Gaga. . .

  25. I would have never picked Sen. Jeff Sessions as one of GAGA’s little monsters. I wonder what else he’s hiding . . . get the NSA on this STAT . . .

  26. Lady Gogo is addicted to fame. She must be stopped. It is detrimental to OUR health.

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