The Senate on Wednesday night confirmed President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, outspoken marijuana opponent Jeff Sessions, formerly a U.S. senator from Alabama.
Sessions was confirmed in a 52-47 vote, with only one Democrat in the chamber backing the Republican.
When Trump named Sessions as his pick for attorney general last November, plenty of cannabis industry insiders were alarmed and feared Sessions could spearhead a new federal crackdown on marijuana businesses.
But on Wednesday, two of the more prominent national cannabis advocacy groups took a more measured stance: Both said they expect that Sessions will respect states’ rights when it comes to marijuana policy.
“President Trump has consistently said that states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and his spokesperson made it clear that the attorney general will be implementing the Trump agenda,” Bob Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “We are hopeful that Mr. Sessions will follow the president’s lead and respect states’ rights on marijuana policy.”
Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a prepared statement, “We look forward to Attorney General Sessions maintaining the current federal policy of respect for legal, regulated cannabis programs in the states, and we will work with him to do that.
“That policy, as outlined by the Cole Memo, has allowed carefully designed state regulatory programs approved by voters and lawmakers to move forward, while maintaining the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing criminals and prosecuting bad actors,” Smith said.
Many others, including U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher – one of the cannabis industry’s staunchest allies in Congress – have also said they are confident Sessions won’t use his new position to persecute marijuana companies. Others have suggested marijuana companies that are compliant with state law will likely be low priorities for the new attorney general, if they’re even on his radar.
But during his confirmation hearings in January, Sessions gave little indication as to how he intends to approach marijuana policy. He emphasized that the Department of Justice has scarce resources but added that he “won’t commit to never enforcing federal law” as it pertains to marijuana, which remains an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance.