President elect Donald Trump may have been non-committal about legalizing cannabis (minimally supporting states’ decisions) but his choice for attorney general may prove more troubling for supporters of legal weed.
Undoubtedly, cannabis activists would enjoy a more balanced choice to lead the Department of Justice, but what else would one expect from who will perhaps stand as the most polarizing president in history.
The 69-year-old Sessions has been ranked the fifth-most conservative U.S. Senator, but more importantly has delved into the spotlight of controversy more than once, even managing to make more of a rumpus out of the marijuana debate than thought possible.
Sessions’ former co-workers testified at his failed 1986 federal judicial confirmation hearing that he once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK,” until he learned that they “smoked marijuana.”
Fast-forward to his Senate Floor Speech On Opioid Epidemic on March 7 where Sessions demonized cannabis as a gateway drug and roiled President Obama for his candor in having once smoked marijuana.
“You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink, saying I used marijuana when I was in high school and it is no different than smoking. It is different,” Sessions said. “And you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the States that have made it legal.”
At a Senate drug hearing in April Sessions declared that “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”
It’s clear that Sessions is no fan of the herb. But how much damage can one man in government do to the rising tide of national support for marijuana legalization?
John Hudak, author of “Marijuana: A Short History,” recently opined to the New York Times that there is cause for worry.
“As attorney general, Sessions would have the ability to rescind two Justice Department directives — known as the Cole and Ogden memos — that called for stepping back from marijuana prosecutions,” Hudak told the Times.
He could also use federal law enforcement power against operators and sue state regulators to block state systems. The only person who can stop the attorney general is the president, and it is unclear whether Trump will direct or delegate drug policy.”
While Trump has hedged on his feelings towards legal marijuana, the consummate businessman might just support states’ abilities to generate revenue from legalizing cannabis. Trump has also expressed support, albeit quite a wishy-washy, for cannabis as medicine.
Hudak predicts that if Sessions’ does take on overturning legal marijuana as a pet project, it would all begin with litigation combating California’s recently passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use for adults.
“First, the Justice Department would likely sue the state [of California] to prevent the enforcing of Prop 64. They could use other law enforcement entities — outside of the Drug Enforcement Administration — to begin physical crackdowns on existing operators,” Hudak said, before predicting a resurgence of the marijuana black market seen in so many places where cannabis remains illegal.