"How Jeff Sessions Wants To Bring Back the War on Drugs"

The attorney general has named an unreconstructed drug warrior as a senior adviser.



Is the Trump administration going war crazy? Last week, the president launched a missile strike on a Syrian air base as retaliation for the Assad regime reportedly gassing its own people.

And now, The Washington Post reports, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is adamantly against marijuana legalization, is ready to escalate the war on drugs by pulling former federal prosecutor Steven H. Cook into his inner circle.

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and '90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Cook, who is also a former street cop credited with bringing down Chattanooga, Tennessee's biggest drug dealer, is a fan of maintaining and even increasing mandatory minimums. He believes that drug dealing is "inherently violent," as if the black-market status of drugs doesn't create a world in which contracts and deals are enforced through violence:

"Drug trafficking is inherently violent. Drug traffickers are dealing in a heavy cash business," he said on the "O'Reilly Factor" last year. "They can't resolve disputes in court. They resolve the disputes on the street, and they resolve them through violence."

For his part, Sessions has explicitly called for a return to "Just Say No" policies that included mandatory minimums and all sorts of sentencing enhancements that swelled prison populations. Calling pot "only slightly less awful" than heroin, he has also signaled that he will continue to pursue legal action against marijuana users even in states where it has been made legal for medical and recreational use.

"If there was a flickering candle of hope that remained for sentencing reform, Cook's appointment was a fire hose," said [Kevin] Ring, of FAMM [Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a leading sentencing-reform group]. "There simply aren't enough backhoes to build all the prisons it would take to realize Steve Cook's vision for America."

Read the whole Washington Post, by Sari Horwitz, story here.

Has there been a more ineffective and destructive government program than the decades-long drug war? Studies regularly show that drug laws have minimal effect on individual behavior while visiting all sorts of violence and disruption on us all. Arguably the most distressing thing about Cook is his insistence that currently illegal drugs are somehow possessed of magical properties that make dealing in them "inherently violent." If history (and common sense) tell us anything, it's that prohibition is what makes trafficking in anything "inherently violent."

When people trade in black markets, everything is ultimately enforced through violence and threats because there are no other forms of recourse. This is one of the great lessons of liquor prohibition, which abetted the rise of organized crime in the United States. Add to that the overwhelmingly positive experience with pot legalization in Colorado, which has the most robust legal market for marijuana, and the Sessions-Cook position is even more baffling. The increase in tax revenue, along with no serious increases in use among youths or in drug-related crime, has even caused Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to reconsider his opposition to legalization.

At least since the middle 1990s, when crime rates started dropping and staying low and medical marijuana was legalized, it seemed as America was growing up about the moral and pragmatic sagacity of making at least soft drugs such as pot available. The Sessions Justice Department is insisting on a second childhood, alas.

Related: "The Trump Administration Can't Stop Marijuana Legalization (But He Can Slow it Down)"

NEXT: Denver Man Who Claimed Marijuana Made Him Kill His Wife Gets 30 Years

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  1. Bring back?

    There have been some improvements around cannabis, but the broader war on drugs is going strong.

  2. He believes that drug dealing is “inherently violent,” as if the black-market status of drugs doesn’t create a world in which contracts and deals are enforced through violence…

    “We wouldn’t need to unleash our peaceful prohibition if these people would stop doing things we don’t like.”

  3. Trump, Sessions, and Cook should DIAF.

    1. Better yet, suffer from chemotherapy.

    2. Can we settle on the woodchipper?

  4. Sessions et al is suffering from a form of Reefer Madness – the madness which allows one to totally deny reality while maintaining the position that he’s the only sane one in the house.

  5. There needs to be a concerted effort to legalize marijuana at the state level in the name of taxing the demon weed for the children – and then a program of the cannabis industry hiring consultants out of the DEA’s upper ranks. It takes a lot of grease to keep that revolving door spinning and the spinning revolving door is what powers DC. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but shitweasels are baited with cash.

    1. Yeah this is like when Bernie bros talk about the need for a new push for single-payer healthcare.

      We had the chance, but we elected Republicans.

  6. “Drug trafficking is inherently violent”

    You could say the same thing about booze running during prohibition. But then prohibition ended and so did the violence. This isn’t fucking brain surgery you idiots.

    1. It is rocket surgery.

      Very difficult.

      1. You try keeping your hands steady, cruising at mach 3, 50k ft in the air.

  7. How successful can they be, when that notable bastion of hippie-dom ARKANSAS legalized medical weed by referendum last November? 30 states have legal medical marijuana and six states, including the entire west coast, have legal recreational weed? Antonito CO, population tiny, two miles from the NM state line, changed my mind about legal weed. Since 2013 they have built a new library, paved all the streets, installed new sidewalks and lovely street lights, all based on ‘tourists’ willing to drive for a legal toke. They still have churches, hospitals, the Old Dutch Mill restaurant, and no roving street gangs or piles of bodies.

    1. Good people don’t smoke marijuana. And apparently our prison population isn’t a concern.

  8. Prosecutors gonna prosecute. Who were other reasonably likely choices for “top lieutenants”?

    What I’m getting at is, how newsworthy is this appointment? Unless I see evidence otherwise, it’s making a big tsimmes about the expected course of biz.


    2. What I like to read here about?& have read Reason about since the late 1970s?is analysis of trends. For a lot of that time, Reason content tended to be optimistic, in some cases unrealistically so, but overall it was more of a resource on world analysis than most contemporary libertarian lit. But in recent years, & most especially the past yr., HyR’s been so slanted as to make it worthless for trend analysis on many subjects.

      What’s going on at [in]Justice re drugs doesn’t seem to be part of any trend. So far I see pretty much people filling their expected roles, saying the expected things. The part about consent decrees, that looks significant. When I read HyR’s 1st headline on that, I didn’t realize it was about consent decrees related to local policing, thought it was about concessions extracted from various businesses going about their biz, & I thought “good that they’re reining that in”. Not good to be reining in the controls on local PDs, however, although even there I could see some cases where that’s such a political football that reining [in]Justice in could be good.

      1. Jesus Christ, just use an ampersand. This isn’t Mexico.

  9. Jeff Sessions said:

    “Black Markets are inherently violent. Black Marketeers are dealing in a heavy cash business,”

    Thus we should end government support for Black Markets.


    I was only joking.

  10. RE: “How Jeff Sessions Wants To Bring Back the War on Drugs”
    The attorney general has named an unreconstructed drug warrior as a senior adviser.

    I didn’t know the war on drugs was gone.
    I stand corrected.

  11. When it comes to supply and demand as applied to economics, conservatives understand the effect well. But one of biggest beefs about some of my conservative brethren is that too many Republicans don’t seem to understand how supply and demand affects illegal drugs. They are blinded, rendered obtuse, by politics and the need for votes.

    An argument goes like this:

    “Why do we need a law against drugs?”

    “Because there has been an epidemic of drug use for decades.”

    “So why not get rid of the law?”

    “There’d be an epidemic!”

    When a drug lord/dealer and his huge stash of drugs are seized, who cheers the most? His competitors, other drug lords and dealers.

    Republicans should ask them why.

  12. Why are these authoritarian fools suppressing the people on this small matter, generation after generation!

  13. The “War on Drugs” has failed. All it has done is militarized our police and crammed our prisons full of non-violent offenders. It’s like our involvement in the middle east. The situation is FAR worse than it was in the early 90’s.

    It’s time to stop using these failed policies. They don’t work. Quit funding the money pit.

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