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Sessions urges drug crackdown to fight deadly overdose epidemic

Speaking before the annual conference of the National Alliance For Drug Endangered Children, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called America's overdose epidemic "the top lethal issue" in the United States. To fight it, he urged social workers and law enforcement personnel to "create and foster a culture that's hostile to drug use."

Preliminary data indicate the U.S. lost 60,000 people to deadly drug overdoses in 2016, according to Sessions, which would be the largest annual number of deaths so far.

"Our current drug epidemic is indeed the deadliest in American history," said Sessions. "We've seen nothing like it," despite decades of enforcement attempts, including harsh mandatory-minimum sentences for drug offenders.

Although many have called the War on Drugs and expensive and ineffective set of policies, Sessions argued that "we must not capitulate, intellectually or morally, to drug use. We must create and foster a culture that's hostile to drug use."

As we discussed on this blog at the time, in May Sessions reversed a reform instituted by the Obama administration that was meant to reduce over-incarceration of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Obama had asked federal prosecutors to avoid sentencing such people to lengthy mandatory-minimum sentences that would keep them behind bars and away from their families for years, even for misdemeanor-level offenses. Sessions has urged prosecutors to file the most serious appropriate charges in every case.

According to the Associated Press, Sessions also criticized Hollywood, the media and unnamed government representatives for sending "mixed messages about the harmfulness of drugs."

Sessions may be referring to information about marijuana, specifically. He has long been known as an opponent to cannabis, having said "good people don't smoke marijuana" and drawing no distinction between smoking it for recreational or medical purposes. He considers the drug war a success.

It's not clear yet what Sessions' comments means for states like Arizona that have approved cannabis for medical use or those that have legalized it altogether.

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