While speaking to a group of Kentucky high school students this past Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch took an uncharacteristically soft stance on the supposed negative impacts of marijuana usage.
Lynch made a name for herself before her tenure even began as a hardliner when it came to the U.S. federal government’s ban on the substance. The opportunity for Lynch to express such views came as the then-nominee was grilled on her stance on the conflict between multiple state level legalizations of marijuana and the still standing total federal ban on the widely used but highly controversial substance.
Lynch at the time even came out in direct opposition to President Obama’s view that marijuana “isn’t more dangerous than alcohol,” saying that she “certainly doesn’t hold that view,” as CNN reported last May.
This past Tuesday however, perhaps under the weight of over a year of experience in officially dealing with the state-level weed legalization laws, Lynch backtracked on her original position on the substance.
She blasted the popular view that marijuana usage leads people to use harder substances such as opioids, saying:
‘When we talk about heroin addiction, we usually, as we have mentioned, are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin. It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids — it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana as a specific gateway.’
Kentucky has suffered lately under a heavy opioid addiction epidemic, with 1,087 heroin deaths in 2014 across the state, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the International Business Times.
To say that conflicting views over the legalization of marijuana have occupied a focal position in the American political dialogue in recent years would be an understatement. One of the most prominent pieces of the the platform pushed by Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign, for example, was the end of the federal marijuana ban.
This November, a number of states have initiatives on the ballot to legalize either medical or recreational marijuana. These states include, according to the Cannabist: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota.
Watch Lynch’s address to Kentucky students below.
Featured Image is via Allison Shelley/ Getty Images.