By Marijuana Business Daily staff
Marijuana industry officials reacted with alarm Friday to President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, citing the Alabama lawmaker’s hostile attitude toward cannabis and MJ legalization.
Industry leaders attending this week’s Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas voiced concern that Sessions would lead a new crackdown on marijuana business in states that have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana.
Industry officials also suggested Sessions would present a roadblock to additional marijuana reforms in such areas as banking, where cannabis companies struggle to find a financial institution to serve them given the plant’s federal status as an illegal narcotic.
Last week’s national elections saw eight states approve new markets for legal recreational and medical cannabis, and Trump’s nomination of Sessions raises questions about the legalization efforts of more states down the road. Twenty-nine states and Washington DC have legalized medical marijuana, while eight states and the District of Columbia have approved adult use.
“Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is the worst pick that Trump could have made for attorney general as it comes to the marijuana issues, and this selection bodes very poorly for the Trump administration to adopt a marijuana friendly policy,” said Aaron Herzberg, the general counsel at CalCann Holdings, a marijuana-focused focused real estate firm in California. “He has been extremely hostile to efforts to legalize both medical and adult-use marijuana.”
Troy Dayton, CEO of Oakland, California-based Arcview Group, said, “It’s pretty clear that his record is anti-cannabis.”
Sessions has been quoted as saying:
- He thought the Ku Klux Klan was fine “until I found out they smoked pot.” Sessions dismissed the comment as a joke, The New York Times reported.
- “We needs grown-ups in charge in Washington to say that 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.”
“Jeff Sessions is a drug war dinosaur, which is the last thing the nation needs now,” Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, warned in a news release.
“Those who counted on Donald Trump’s reassurance that marijuana reforms ‘should be a state issue’ will be sorely disappointed,” he added. “And not just Democrats but the many Republicans as well who favor rolling back the war on drugs had better resist this nomination.”
Emily Paxhia, managing director of Poseidon Asset Management, a cannabis-focused investment firm in San Francisco, said, “I was not thrilled that someone who has denigrated cannabis and people who consume cannabis was chosen to be attorney general.”
But she was not despondent, predicting other issues such as immigration are more important to Sessions and Trump and would occupy too much of their time, meaning the Trump administration could simply decide to leave the cannabis industry alone.
A key upcoming vote in Congress could play a pivotal role in the cannabis industry’s near-term future: the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to a federal spending bill, which must be approved again by lawmakers for MJ businesses to remain protected from any crackdown by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The bill’s namesake, California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, did not see the negative in Sessions’ nomination.
“This president has made clear that he believes in a states’ rights approach to marijuana,” Rohrabacher said in a phone interview with Marijuana Business Daily. “And if the president is in favor of a states’ rights approach to marijuana, I am certain that Jeff Sessions, being a man of high integrity, will not be undermining his president’s position and (will) be enforcing what Trump wants rather than what Sessions has done in the past.”
Mitch Anderson, managing partner of Global Recruiters of Chicago West, a Chicago-based ancillary firm that works on staffing within the cannabis industry, predicted “there will be some reluctance to move forward” with cannabis reform at the federal level.
He added: “The real question is: What’s going to happen with the states that are up next?”
John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]
Omar Sacirbey can be reached at [email protected]
Bart Schaneman can be reached at [email protected]