Arguably the biggest cannabis opponent on the planet right now according to many cannabis advocates is United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
As proof of this, people can look towards Sessions’ support of a bill while he was serving as Alabama’s Attorney General which called for the death penalty for people caught selling cannabis.
Jeff Sessions once stated at a Senate hearing that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
When Sessions was appointed to his current position as United States Attorney General it sent shock waves throughout the cannabis industry.
However, comments made this week by Jeff Sessions have made some members of the cannabis industry optimistic about the future of the cannabis space. Is that level of optimism well-founded?
Jeff Sessions admits that there ‘may well be some benefits’ from medical cannabis
A year ago Jeff Sessions stated the following:
“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”
With that in mind, it was a significant development when earlier this week Jeff Sessions conceded that “there may well be some benefits from medical marijuana.”
The statement came while Jeff Sessions was speaking in front of a Senate panel about cannabis policy. Sessions also stated that cannabis is “perfectly appropriate to study” and said that the federal government would be issuing more research licenses soon.
The comments were celebrated by many members in the cannabis industry and met with skepticism by other members of the cannabis space.
While it’s true that only time will tell if Sessions is sincere about his comments, the fact that he made them at all given his history is very significant.
Jeff Sessions say states can make their own decisions about cannabis, but risk enforcement
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was speaking to a Senate panel again today and further discussed federal cannabis policy, this time as it specifically relates to federal enforcement (or lack thereof) in legal states.
Legendary cannabis activist Tom Angell broke the news and quoted Jeff Sessions as saying:
“Let’s be frank. What they’d like is a statement that they’ve been provided a safe harbor. I don’t believe I can give that,” he said. “They’ll just have to look and make their own decision about how they conduct a marijuana enterprise.”
Sessions would go on to say that he thinks that cannabis is harmful, and gave mixed signals about whether actual enforcement would occur.
On one hand, he stated that it would ultimately be up to United States attorneys in legal states and how they choose to use limited resources, but also hammered home the point that cannabis is still very much illegal at the federal level.
How should cannabis industry members take the recent comments?
Some of Jeff Sessions’ comments this week were positive and absolutely should be celebrated, if for any reason because it’s light years different than his past comments.
One very significant thing that industry members need to keep in mind is that if Jeff Sessions led a crackdown, he would be defying his boss’ recently professed public policy stance that cannabis policy should be left to the states.
Such a move would be extremely unpopular. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 70% of Americans would oppose federal interference in legal medical and adult-use cannabis states.
What cannabis industry members should be doing on a very frequent basis is contacting their elected federal officials and letting them know that federal cannabis policy should be evolving in a positive fashion, and not going backward.
If you are in the industry let your federal lawmakers know that they need to oppose federal interference and support 280E reform, banking reform, and other federal reforms that push the industry forward.
Don’t let Jeff Sessions’ recent comments make you complacent!