The United States government just got a little more pot-friendly than it has been for the past couple of years. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the “good people don’t smoke marijuana” law enforcement hammer of the Trump administration, has officially removed his clown shoes and stepped down from his post.
Reports indicate that the proverbial kill switch was pulled by none other than President Trump following months of frustration with the former attorney general and his inability to gain control over the Department of Justice. The news of Sessions’s departure comes just one day after the Democrats gained back control of the U.S. House and marijuana legalization victories swept parts of the Midwest.
“At your request, I am submitting my resignation,” Sessions wrote in a letter to the president. “Since the day I was honored to be sworn in as Attorney General of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country. I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”
Sessions never served the will of the people. He spent his time as an Alabama senator preaching reefer madness on Capitol Hill and he came out of the gate as attorney general ready to stop all the progress marijuana legalization has made over the past two decades. From day one he spewed constant nonsense to the media about reverting to the days of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, never once missing an opportunity to preach to the American people about how cannabis was the root of the country’s drug problems, especially the opioid epidemic.
Additionally, Sessions was adamant about enforcing Uncle Sam’s anti-drug agenda, arguing that while states had the right to establish marijuana laws, his job was to “follow the federal law.” It eventually came out around mid-2017 that the Department of Justice was considering a “federal crackdown” on states that had legalized marijuana for recreational use. There was speculation that Sessions was waiting to get medical marijuana states involved before pulling the trigger. But that never happened because of a temporary budget rider known as the as the Rohrabacher-Farr and Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendments has been standing in the way for the past several years.
Sessions eventually petitioned Congressional leaders in hopes of persuading them to jettison the medical marijuana protections in the new budget. In a letter, the attorney general told federal lawmakers that it was “unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions,” and that “the Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
Fortunately, Congress did not fold to his request.
It wasn’t until the very beginning of 2018 that Sessions started to really get the cannabis industry worked up about his so-called crackdown. In January, Sessions took his madness up a notch by rescinding an Obama-era memo (Cole memo) that, since 2013, had allowed states to legalize marijuana without federal interference. All bets were off. “Given the Department’s well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately,” Sessions wrote in a memo to federal prosecutors.
The overall message behind the memo was “Happy New Year, potheads. We’re coming for you.”
It was a hard blow to those cannabis companies with millions invested in statewide cannabis commerce. From that point forward, the cannabis industry continued to operate with cautious optimism, but it did so with the understanding that it could all come crashing down at a moment’s notice.
Members of Congress representing legal marijuana states eventually started bombarding President Trump about his loose cannon of an attorney general, begging him to call off the dogs. Some believe all of this bad noise eventually inspired Trump to pull Sessions down from his high horse and stop him from bullying the cannabis trade. President Trump told reporters over the summer that he would “probably” support a plan to legalize marijuana nationwide. This comment was made without consulting first with the attorney general. It wasn’t long after that Sessions’ vocal reign of terror against all things related to the cannabis scene came to a screeching halt.
Many legal experts, including former Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole, the man responsible for drafting the Cole Memo, said Sessions’s threats to take down legal marijuana were all talk. Although Cole admitted that Sessions had the authority to unleash such a crackdown, it wasn’t likely to happen.
The cannabis industry has not heard much from Sessions over the past several months. Not even after Canada legalized marijuana for recreational use did he come out and take a hardline stance against this kind of reform in the United States. He has been too busy trying to keep President Trump at bay to worry about marijuana.
Some believe Trump requested that Sessions resign as a way to squash the Russia probe now that the Democrats have the power to ramp up the investigation. Whatever his reasons, Sessions is out, and as far as we’re concerned it’s good riddance!
Of course, national cannabis advocates couldn’t be more thrilled that Trump finally came to his senses and tossed Sessions out on his ears.
“Attorney General Jefferson Sessions was a national disgrace,” Erik Altieri, Executive Director at NORML, said in an emailed statement. “NORML hopes he finds the time during his retirement to seek treatment for his affliction of 1950s reefer madness.”
Sessions is being replaced by his Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker, who will serve as acting attorney general until Trump finds a permanent replacement. How long that will take remains unclear.
“We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States,” Trump said in a Tweet. “He will serve our country well… We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
TELL US, are you glad Jeff Sessions is out?