Many Americans fear a Trump presidency for numerous reasons – he’s incited violence against his opposition; made derogatory remarks about women, minorities and disabled citizens; threatened the citizenship of many individuals and has generally proven himself un-presidential. Nevertheless, the President-elect is making his way into the White House and he’s taking some rather unsavory individuals with him.
One such individual, Sen. Jeff Sessions, is of special concern to the cannabis industry. Despite Trump’s claim that he would abide by the will of the voters in terms of marijuana reform, would-be Attorney General Sessions has taken the opposite stance, stating that "[w]e need grown-ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger.” As top dog of law enforcement, this could be especially detrimental for the cannabis industry.
Though it is in bad taste to go against the president’s will, Sessions could easily revoke – or at least halt – the progress we’ve made towards marijuana reform by threatening federal intervention toward growers, manufacturers, distributors, even users with little more than his signature. Should he choose to enforce cannabis prohibition aggressively, the whole industry could be turned on its head.
As a man with a knack for business, Sessions may let the cannabis industry ride since it’s the source of thousands of entrepreneurial endeavors and is projected to be worth more than $21 billion by 2020 (any savvy business person would understand how beneficial this is to the economy), but as a man notorious for being anti-pot, his new role could put him in the perfect position to snuff out the budding industry.
Why Trump Chose Sessions for Attorney General
The fact that Trump chose Sessions comes as no surprise. Sessions was Trump’s biggest backer during the election process, urging fellow republicans to rally behind Trump since the beginning of his campaign trail. He shares many of the same views on civil rights and immigration as Trump as well and possesses the “tough-on-crime” attitude that Trump and his supporters find so appealing. But wait, it gets worse.
Sessions (like Trump) is notoriously racist. Back in 1986, Sessions made numerous racially-charged comments during his confirmation hearing claiming that organizations like the NAACP and ACLU were “un-American” for “forcing civil rights down the throats of people”. These comments, in addition to many more, forced the Senate committee to deem him unfit for a federal judgeship. Though his negative attitude toward minorities has lessened since then (or at least become less public), his actions hardly portray a changed man. For example, he opposes efforts to protect marginalized people claiming them to be intrusive and “a threat to Western civilization”. As for his views toward the KKK: he only dislikes them because they smoke weed (otherwise, he’s totally cool with them).
Which brings us to our next point: if Sessions is so staunchly opposed to cannabis reform while simultaneously being so racist, minorities may face additional scrutiny if they are cannabis users, especially if they are in the business. Because the industry has brought many cannabis consumers and business owners out of the shadows, minorities and high-profile industry professionals risk high fines and lengthy jail time should Sessions decide to enforce federal drug policy.
What Can We Do?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do if Sessions becomes Attorney General. Congress seems unwilling to impede on the nomination, often citing his background as a U.S. attorney and his strict interpretation of the constitution as qualification enough to uphold the job title. Even if Democrats choose to fight against a Sessions-headed Department of Justice by bringing up past racist charges, they lack enough votes to block him.
Donald Trump isn’t exactly the poster child for marijuana reform. Despite stating that marijuana legalization should be a state-by-state issue (and claiming to support the will of the voter), his overall opinion of the matter is, well, bad. Trump spoke of his distaste for recreational cannabis at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAP) last year during which he stated: "I say it's bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it's bad, and I feel strongly about it."
Now that Trump has won the presidency, he’s filling his cabinet with people who can further his agenda. Unfortunately, one of those people, Sen. Jeff Sessions, may have his own agenda in regards to marijuana reform – one that stands in stark contrast to the over-all opinion of the American people.
What do you think of Jeff Sessions? Will the cannabis industry remain unchanged?
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore