In a today’s vote that went along party lines as expected, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III inched closer to being the top law enforcement official in the land and seventh in the line of presidential succession, while Trump Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch also made his big primetime debut this week.
The cannabis world continues to be on edge over the likely reality of Sessions holding the deck of cards for the future of the industry. While seeing cannabis industry inventors like Peter Thiel wired in at the core of the administration might be a slightly soothing thought, seeing a guy who once noted the KKK, “were OK until I found out they smoked pot,” being in charge of handcuffing reefers is definitely a bit worrisome. Even more so since he’s supported legislation that would have allowed defendants to receive the death penalty if they had received multiple convictions for marijuana distribution.
Reform groups across the political spectrum are beating the war drums over Sessions continued march towards the attorney general post. Outside of the civil rights leaders demanding he not get the nod, cannabis advocates have been some of the loudest against the nomination since his name was revealed not long after the presidential election. Cannabis policy’s oldest advocacy group NORML has been battling back against Sessions for decades.
“If the Senate approves Jeff Sessions as attorney general they will be elevating a true believer in outdated reefer madness rhetoric to the highest law enforcement post in the land,” said Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML. “Until we have explicit confirmation from the Trump Administration or Senator Sessions himself that the federal government will not interfere with state marijuana laws, we are urging senators to stand up for the will of the voters and the 60 percent of the country that supports legalization and ‘Just Say No’ to Sessions for attorney general.”
Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, added to Altieri’s comments noting it would be a return to the dark ages for not just cannabis, but also civil liberties in general.
“On a range of issues, Sen. Sessions would represent a return the bygone era of state repression against individuals’ rights. For marijuana in particular, in a day and age of legal dispensaries, it is troubling to see that a man who called for the execution of marijuana distributors become the nation’s top law enforcement officer,” said Strekal. “It is imperative that Congress move forward on protections for states that have reformed their approach to marijuana to protect them from a rogue Justice Department.”
The New York Times reports Sessions is expected to be approved by the full Senate next week.
A New Supreme Court Nomination
On the heels of the Session vote being postponed yesterday by Democrats using procedural rules, President Donald Trump revealed his nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell was quick to highlight the positions Gorsuch has taken on the few cannabis cases he’s presided over.
The main takeaways from Gorsuch’s past comments are that he is fully aware of the hypocrisy of the tax code when it comes to cannabis, and you’re going to have to be praying pretty hard if you want to convince him you’re running a pot church.
“From his writing in the tax case, it seems that Gorsuch is well aware of the problems and uncertainty being caused by the growing gulf between federal and state marijuana laws,” said Angell. “But even while he seems to have a general deference to states’ abilities to handle their own matters under the Constitution, we don’t exactly have a clear sense of where he’d come down on key questions about the Controlled Substances Act’s implications for state cannabis policies. I’m really hoping that at least one member of the Senate Judiciary Committee cares enough to ask about this issue during the confirmation hearings.”
UPDATED (2/2/17 @2:50 PST):
In an email to Cannabis Now, Mason Tvert, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the organization remains “cautiously optimistic that the [Trump] administration will respect state laws that regulate marijuana for adult and/or medical use.”
“Mr. Gorsuch appears to have a skeptical view of overly broad interpretations of the commerce clause,” Tvert said. “Our hope is that he would disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Raich v. Gonzalez case, in which the majority decided that marijuana grown, transported, and consumed entirely within California was somehow an interstate commerce issue.
TELL US, what do you think about the future of marijuana in light of the current political climate?