Everyone is talking about new president elect Donald Trump, and a lot of cannabis advocates are on edge, and for good reason. Many of the people Trump has tapped to be a part of his administration have flatly said they hate recreational marijuana. One of the worst among them is Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has been tapped for Attorney General.
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized,” Mr. Sessions said at a Senate hearing in April. He also said “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Sessions is also in favor of harsh mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. In other words, he stands to undo a lot of what Obama did during his presidency, which wasn’t perfect—in fact, the DEA under Obama raided more dispensaries than under Bush, until he made them back off—but at least Obama has more or less left recreational marijuana states alone.
Sessions definitely has power to make things difficult for states. He’d control the Drug Enforcement Agency and federal prosecutors.
But remember marijuana is a fast-growing, multibillion-dollar industry legal, in some way, in more than half the country—27 states and D.C. That means they have a very good legal team. So Jeff Sessions were to restart raids or impose sanctions, there would likely be a long, drawn-out court battle. And in that court battle, judges would have to hear why marijuana is illegal in the first place.
There is almost absolutely no way the evidence that marijuana is safe, hardly addictive, and medicinally beneficial for dozens of medical conditions could lose in court.
This is why, when the DEA was petitioned to hear if marijuana should be rescheduled, they flat out denied initiating the proceedings. The Supreme Court was petitioned to decide on Colorado’s marijuana law, but they also flat out said ‘no thanks,’ and dropped the case. Both these things happened in 2016. Why did both government agencies say no? It’s not because they’re lazy or incompetent (although no one is denying that may be a factor)—it’s because they’re running scared. If they have to run up against even the slightest bit of research showing marijuana is completely safe, the game is over.
So it seems, in my opinion at least, that Jeff Sessions is not going to pick a fight he will very likely lose.
Trump himself is unclear if he supports marijuana or not on a federal level—on a state level, he’s made it abundantly clear that he’s in favor of state rights. So while Jeff Sessions will still likely be a terrible Attorney General in terms of criminal justice reform, it’s not likely he would stray far from the policies of his Commander in Chief.