After recovering from various victories across the nation in places not named North Dakota, cannabis advocates welcomed news on Wednesday afternoon that the longtime drug warrior U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had resigned.
Entering President Donald Trump’s first term, Sessions’ policy belief that jail cells should be used to solve America’s substance-abuse epidemic had industry stakeholders nervous about what he could do to the burgeoning state-legal cannabis sphere. So, Sessions was a cloud that loomed strongly over one of North America’s fastest growing industries. Consequently, once word of his resignation got out, cannabis stocks began to jump.
While Sessions generally wielded his influence by blocking research and pressing on pot prosecutions from the previous administration in his first year on the job, things took a scarier turn this past January when he rescinded the Obama-era Cole Memo, which was meant to set guidelines preventing prosecution of state legal and compliant providers. The Cole Memo made clear that the federal government would enforce laws against non-state-compliant companies, including those distributing to minors or transporting marijuana over state lines in large quantities. So, industry folks were left wondering who Sessions actually wanted to target.
When Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, it was almost like he was removing his own chain. With the immediate backlash across the board from lawmakers at the state and federal level as well as advocates, Sessions was on his heels when it came to his longtime enemy: “the grass.” Let us not forget in his most famous public statement on pot, Sessions noted, “Good people do not smoke marijuana.” He went on to note that he believed the KKK seemed OK until he found out they smoked cannabis.
Today, the cannabis industry can rejoice, because Sessions now will never get to fight the war on cannabis he has been mentally preparing for his whole life.
We reached out to the nation’s leading cannabis organizations to get their farewell messages to the famous prohibitionist. The nation’s oldest marijuana reform organization, NORML, offered the most direct response to Sessions on his departure.
“Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was a national disgrace,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “NORML hopes he finds the time during his retirement to seek treatment for his affliction of 1950s reefer madness.”
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, on the other hand, noted the significance of Sessions’s resignation coming the day after multiple cannabis measures passed across the nation.
“With 33 states now recognizing the medical use of cannabis, and with 10 states having legalized the use and sales of marijuana for all adults, it is pivotal that the next U.S. Attorney General be someone who recognizes that most Americans want cannabis to be legally regulated and that they oppose any actions from the Justice Department to interfere with these state-sanctioned efforts,” said Armentano.
Over at the Marijuana Policy Project, advocates were glad Sessions wasn’t able to do any lasting damage during his tenure.
“When it comes to marijuana enforcement, Jeff Sessions is largely leaving the DOJ much like he found it,” said MPP spokesman Mason Tvert. “When he took the position, marijuana policy reforms were being implemented in states around the country and the federal government was generally refraining from interfering, and that is still the case. Hopefully, it will continue to be the case under his successor.”
As for economic future of the cannabis industry? The National Cannabis Industry Association is focusing on the future now that it looks like all have weathered the storm.
“Hopefully the new attorney general will realize that good people do consume cannabis, and it makes more sense for them to obtain it from regulated, taxpaying businesses than from the illicit market,” said NCIA Media Director Morgan Fox. “The Department of Justice should not waste resources targeting state-legal cannabis providers.”
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