Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke Tuesday evening at a Heritage Foundation event to celebrate former President Ronald Reagan's birthday, and he was eager to tie President Trump to Reagan. One of the ways the Trump administration is echoing Reagan's legacy, he said, is by cracking down on drug use, blaming "lax enforcement, permissive rhetoric, and the media" for undermining Nancy Reagan's "just say no" message, especially with marijuana.
During a question-and-answer period, Sessions addressed the opioid epidemic, which is killing an estimated 175 Americans a day. Under President Trump, Kellyanne Conway and other political appointees are in charge of handling the opioid crisis, but Sessions touted an encouraging 7 percent drop last year in prescriptions of opioids, saying he wants to see that trend continue in 2018. "Sometimes you just need to take two Bufferin or something and go to bed," he said. (Bufferin is an old-timey aspirin brand now owned by India's Dr. Reddy's.)
Opioid pills "become so addictive," Sessions said. "The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addictions starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number — they had it as high as 80 percent — we think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs."
WATCH: Attorney General Jeff Sessions says his goal for 2018 is to see a further decline in prescriptions of opioids, and says, "we think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs." pic.twitter.com/paWSsEuNrl
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 7, 2018
Studies suggest medical marijuana actually reduces opioid abuse and deaths, but the attorney general's promised crackdown on marijuana, even where states legalized it, has advocates concerned. "Based on my research and what I've learned while teaching the first U.S. college course on the marijuana business at the University of Denver, I see no reason for supporters of legalization to panic," writes Paul Seaborn at The Conversation. "In fact, I believe that Sessions may have actually accelerated the process toward federal marijuana legalization." Peter Weber