AG nominee Barr voices hands-off approach to state-legal cannabis businesses

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Attorney General nominee William Barr said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would “not go after” state-legal marijuana programs if he is confirmed as President Trump’s next AG, a stance that drew praise from cannabis industry advocates.

Barr was known for his tough approach to drug offenders while serving as AG in the early 1990s, raising concerns among cannabis businesses on the heels of former AG Jeff Sessions’ tenure.

Sessions shook the MJ industry early last year by removing Obama-era protections for state-legal MJ businesses.

Barr said his Senate confirmation hearing he would respect state marijuana laws and businesses that have relied on the Obama-era Cole memorandum.

For his part, Sessions didn’t take much action against MJ businesses, but his mere threat had a chilling effect, especially in terms of discouraging banks from engaging with cannabis businesses, according to experts.

It should be noted that Barr also said in the Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday the “current system is untenable” and that he supports federal marijuana prohibition.

“We should have a federal law that prohibits marijuana everywhere, which I would support myself, because I think it’s a mistake to back off on marijuana,” Barr said, according to a CBS News live blog.

Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), praised Barr’s pledge not to use Justice Department resources to go after state-legal cannabis businesses.

“During the hearing, Barr stated that he supports federal marijuana prohibition even though he would continue the policy of nonenforcement, but was critical of the disparity between state and federal law, calling on Congress to pass legislation that would address this issue,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith added that NCIA would continue to work with lawmakers to resolve that disparity by supporting bills that would allow states to determine their own approach to marijuana without federal interference.

Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, tweeted a similar sentiment.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily