The results of the 2016 election left marijuana proponents with reason to both celebrate and fear. On one end, more states legalized, including California (arguably the state that holds the key to nation-wide reform). On the other, Donald Trump shocked the world and became the president-elect.
Of course, legalization burns brightly; it proves that the views of the average American are changing in regards to pot. But Donald Trump – his views on marijuana are inconsistent and, often, vague.
At his root, he’s a wild card; he might strengthen our relationship with China or he might invade all of Asia because someone from Beijing makes fun of him on Twitter. In regards to marijuana, this uncertainty persists. But it’s not Trump we need to worry about; it’s his nominee for Attorney General: Jeff Sessions.
Who is Jeff Sessions?
Jeff Sessions is a senator from Alabama and has been for the past twenty years. He’s popular in his state; per the Washington Post, apart from his first election in 1996, he’s never received less than 59 percent of the vote. But, popularity doesn’t make him free of disagreement.
Sessions has a reputation for controversial opinions. He’s a staunch opponent of illegal immigration and has repeatedly voted against bills aimed at reducing the burdens on immigrants attempting to become citizens. He’s somewhat against legal immigration as well and, instead, has argued for immigration moderation, a slowing of the influx of those entering the country.
He’s a bit of a hard ass in other regards too:
He advocates for strict foreign policy and once voted against an amendment banning cruel treatment of foreign prisoners. Oh, he doesn’t appear to believe in climate change either
Accusations of racism have marred his career and one instance ties into his views on cannabis. It’s rumored that he joked about the Ku Klux Klan saying he thought they were “okay, until (he) learned they smoked marijuana.”
But, what does Sessions really think in regards to the leaf?
It turns out that, if Sessions were to catch the average American smoking a joint, he’d likely rub their nose in the buds and repeatedly say, “Bad citizen.”
He was once quoted as saying, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
He also criticized the lack of vigorous enforcement of federal prohibition and referred to marijuana reform as “tragic.” In a speech on the Senate floor he was quoted as saying, “You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink.” And he referred to the “disturbance” it has caused in the states that have legalized (as a native of one of these states, the only “disturbance” we are facing is the fact that our precious Broncos aren’t making the playoffs).
Thus, as the above demonstrates, there’s two possibilities: Sessions is truly anti-marijuana or he’s secretly a drug fanatic overcompensating with words of vitriol; he won’t make it to the Presidential inauguration because he’ll be at a rave.
What Sessions Means for the Pot Industry
First of all, Sessions hasn’t yet been confirmed as the US Attorney General but many think he will. Assuming he is, there’s no guarantee that he’ll have much influence on the marijuana industry. Frankly, our nation has more pressing issues and focusing on marijuana, even for those who think it’s a big, bad bud, isn’t a priority. There’s always a chance that Sessions will be too busy with other things to pay much attention to pot.
But, if he wants to eliminate the progress made, he has the potential to do damage. He can essentially ignore state law and arrest anyone involved – growers, users, sellers – for violation of federal law. The irony in this, naturally, lies in the government’s job to represent the people. In thwarting cannabis progression, he’d be doing the opposite: according to a 2016 Gallup Poll, 60 percent of voters support legalization.
Sessions, in many opinions, is considered a “marijuana extremist” with stubborn and antagonistic beliefs immune to reason and science
Not only are people worried from a recreational standpoint, but people who rely on cannabis to help with chronic medical conditions are concerned as well. Were Sessions to mess with this, he’d be pushing his agenda much further: per a Quinnipiac University survey conducted in June, nearly 90 percent of Americans support pot for medical use (Trump has stated that he is pro-marijuana in regards to medicine as well).
Not only could Sessions suppress individual freedom, but he could also screw up finances and damage the economy: cannabis has quickly become a billion-dollar industry. And he could hinder state’s rights by enforcing federal marijuana law in legal jurisdictions.
Not helping this is the DEA’s refusal to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to something that better accounts for its benignity. As it stands, cannabis is classified as dangerous as heroin. Next week, broccoli too will be banned from the local market; get your stalks now – there’s a sale at Safeway.
This sort of rationale allows the perpetuation of prohibitory views. I’m not going to say that Sessions belted out a stunning rendition of “Wind Beneath my Wings” for DEA head Chuck Rosenberg one evening in a roadside karaoke bar, but I’m not going to say he didn’t, either.
Congress, so far, hasn’t seemed all that concerned with the nomination of Sessions. And whether or not they rein him in if and when he’s confirmed remains to be seen. If he’s free to do as he pleases, he might focus on cannabis or he might focus on something else entirely. In the event he does the former, the person with the ability to stop him is Donald Trump.
As we’ve well established, Trump’s views on marijuana or most anything have never been solid (other than the “wall”)
He’s gone on record as being pro-legalization. He’s gone on record stating that legalization is a state issue. And he’s gone on record as being against legalization. So, he’s cleared nothing up.
But if the President-to-be could save the marijuana industry by playing the trump card, it’s always possible he might. Because Trump, no matter how much he likes or dislikes marijuana, appears to love power much more.