President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for United States Attorney General could be a savage thorn in the side of the legal marijuana industry.
It was reported last night by the New York Times that Trump has picked Senator Jeff Sessions, an ultra-conservative from the backwoods of Alabama and perhaps one of the most committed opponents of the marijuana reform movement this nation has ever seen, to take charge of the U.S. Department of Justice.
It is a decision that could bring an end to marijuana legalization as the nation has come to know it.
Not only does Sessions believe that drug decriminalization is a failed concept, but he also stands by the notion that the Obama Administration’s progressive attitude toward marijuana has sabotaged the extensive brainwashing of the American youth done under Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign.
Sessions has even gone as far as to suggest that only bad people get involved with drugs.
“I can't tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we've made,” Session said during a Senate hearing, earlier this year.
“It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline,” he added. “The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it's not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don't smoke marijuana.”
Sessions’ attitude, of course, is a bold menace to the grand scheme of marijuana legalization in the United States, especially since it will be him, as U.S. Attorney General, leading the machine that powers the War on Drugs. As Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority recently pointed out in his analysis of the situation, Sessions will oversee federal prosecutions and be responsible for giving seek and destroy orders to the soldiers over at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
This means the cannabis industry is at risk of being shut down by the Trump Administration in 2017.
However, legal experts say the state of affairs on this matter is not exactly cut and dry. Attorney Jon Gettman, Cannabis Policy Director for High Times Magazine, wrote in his latest column that, while it is true that a Trump Administration could force the cannabis industry to close its doors, it could not prevent states from legalizing marijuana.
“There is no question that the federal government can shut down the legal marijuana industry, and no question that this would be a serious policy reversal with wide-scale ramifications for the industry (as well as wide-spread political ramifications for the Trump Administration and the Republican Party,) Gettman wrote.
But “those drastic actions will have no effect on state laws making it legal for adults to grow and possess marijuana. If any state decides it does not want to use its police, courts, and jails to punish marijuana users, there is nothing the federal government can do to change that,” he added.
But legal pot sales could snuffed out – putting millions of medical marijuana patients at risk of losing access to quality medicine, while, at the same time, dismantling the markets in those states that have made marijuana fully legal.
Throughout Donald Trump’s entire presidential campaign, he has said that he supports medical marijuana “100 percent” and believes any marijuana legalization issue should be left up to the states. But Sessions, who obviously does not support states rights when it comes to the subject of cannabis, could potentially persuade the President-elect to reconsider his stance.
Yet some cannabis reform advocates remain somewhat optimistic.
"While the choice certainly isn't good news for marijuana reform, I'm still hopeful the new administration will realize that any crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems they don't need and will use lots of political capital they'd be better off spending on issues the new president cares a lot more about,” Angell told MERRY JANE in a emailed statement.
While others, not so much.
“Jeff Sessions is a drug war dinosaur, which is the last thing the nation needs now,” said Ethan Nadelmann with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Those who counted on Donald Trump’s reassurance that marijuana reforms ‘should be a state issue’ will be sorely disappointed. And not just Democrats but the many Republicans as well who favor rolling back the war on drugs had better resist this nomination.”
Unfortunately, until the federal government puts a more uniform, concrete marijuana policy into place, the threat of a cannabis industry shutdown will always hang overhead. The only policies preventing the DEA from swooping in right now and busting the skulls of cannabis businesses is a measly temporary amendment in a federal spending bill and a lousy memo issued a couple of years ago by the Obama Administration. We need a full repeal of prohibition, just like Congress did with alcohol in 1933, in order to give states the full freedom to do as they wish with respect to marijuana reform.
Until then, anything is possible.