A Republican congressman notorious for blocking federal marijuana reform nearly derailed a “historic” Capitol Hill hearing on federal legalization Tuesday when he compared the MJ industry to slavery, comments other lawmakers decried as “offensive.”
During a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing in which lawmakers from both major parties mostly extolled legalization and called for federal reform, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas – who regularly blocked marijuana reform bills as chair of the House Rules committee from 2013 to 2019 – also offered a preview of the anti-legalization arguments likely to be heard during the next Congress and in statehouses across the country.
Sessions connected legalization to traffic fatalities and high-THC products to health problems, and studies examining both were introduced into the record.
But Sessions drew bipartisan criticism for a “patently offensive” comment in which he drew an analogy between the industry and slavery.
“The product is being marketed,” he said. “The product is being sold. The product has been advocated by people who were in it to make money.”
“Slavery made money also and was a terrible circumstance that this country and the world went through for many, many years.”
Sessions’ statement was disavowed by other lawmakers on the committee, who apologized for the “peculiar analogy.”
The Texas Republican also earned criticism from other witnesses giving testimony at the hearing, including the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, Randall Woodfin, who is Black.
“Words matter,” Woodfin said, according to the Birmingham Times.
“While I’m on record, I would just like to say to you directly, your committee members, that putting cannabis and slavery in the same category is patently offensive and flagrant.”