On November 8th, 2016, Americans elected Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and a chill went up the spine of marijuana advocates, investors and business owners all around the country. Whereas the Obama administration and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch have taken a hands-off approach to federal marijuana enforcement, nobody knew what to expect from the incoming Trump administration.
For starters, no body know who Trump would nominate for attorney general, although none of the potential options looked good. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was frequently mentioned in such conversations, and he had already been quoted as saying that should he become attorney general, he would begin “enforcing federal law” on day 1. While he didn’t go into specifics, it was clear that he’d make the lives of marijuana entrepreneurs much more difficult than it had been. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s name was mentioned as well, and he has a similarly anti-cannabis past.
However, neither Christie nor Giuliani received the nomination. Instead, Donald Trump nominated someone who said the following things over the last decade or so:
“I think one of [Obama’s] great failures, it’s obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana.”
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.”
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana”
The man who said these things is Jeffery Beauregard Sessions, senator from Alabama. Sessions has a long history of being at odds with the decriminalization of cannabis, and on the surface, his nomination to the position does not bode well for the industry.
Sessions has not yet commented very much publicly about his stance on marijuana, and most of the press coverage surrounding his nomination has centered around his civil rights views and other aspects of his professional career. Those interested in his approach sat on the edge of their collective seat during Session’s confirmation hearings, waiting to hear his thoughts on the matter. However, the subject of cannabis did not come up very much in the hearing.
At his confirmation hearings, Sessions said: “It’s not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our jobs and enforce laws effectively as we’re able.” He continued, “The U.S. Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state — and the distribution — an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.”
For what it’s worth, the Trump administration has said that it favors the right of the states to determine their own marijuana laws, so it is possible that they will encourage Sessions to spend his time enforcing other laws. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything turns out in the end.
We’re living in interesting times, and the next few years promise to be even more interesting.