Jeff Sessions’ Challenge Could Reignite War on Drugs

Jeff Sessions’ Challenge Could Reignite War on Drugs

A room full of cocaine and guns.

Recently, former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed as the Attorney General of the United States. While there are many different aspects to consider about a candidate for Attorney General (or any position within an administration’s cabinet), one particular area that could cause problems in the healthcare and addiction treatment industries is how Jeff Sessions views drug use, and the policies that he has supported (or not supported) in the past.

Most alarmingly, Jeff Sessions has a fairly clear view, despite data that points to the contrary, that the war on drugs was an overall success. Since his nomination, he has even made statements that suggest he could reignite the war on drugs, including prosecuting businesses and individuals in states that have legalized marijuana.

The war on drugs had poor outcomes

First of all, it’s important to note that the data that is available on the war on drugs doesn’t point to a very successful ideal. Since the war on drugs truly escalated in the 1980’s, the incarceration rate in the United States has skyrocketed over 400%. Most of this increase is due to the harsh mandatory sentencing of drug users, which is something that Jeff Sessions supports. Despite this increase, the illegal drug trade is expected to be well over $320 billion, today.

It’s hard to measure exact numbers of an illicit trade in the United States. However, drug prices for substances like heroin and cocaine have almost been cut in half, since the 1980’s. When you consider the rise in drug trade revenue, along with the decrease in price, it’s easy to see that the war on drugs has done little-to-nothing to stop the spread of illicit drug abuse. The opioid epidemic we are witnessing today, along with the rise of heroin abuse, is a harrowing example of this fact.

Moralization on drug use

Jeff Sessions doesn’t believe that treatment programs work for addicts, and has stated that he believes imprisonment is a more effective form of deterrence, even though he has advocated for doing away with programs that help addicts in prison get clean. Sessions has even been quotes as saying that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” This shows that Sessions believes that addiction is more of a moral issue, rather than a behavioral disease. This is problematic for those who have fought to bring awareness to addiction, and could disrupt policies that can bring treatment to those who need it at a vital time.