Although there has been a lot of action in 2018 in the realm of cannabis reform — Canada legalized a nationwide recreational pot market, while a few more states legalized in some fashion or another — there is still nothing happening in the United States with respect to this issue at the federal level.
Some of the Trump administration’s most dedicated critics continue to blame U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the nation’s stagnant drug policy, while others boast that Congress is finally ready to make a change. In fact, some reports point to legislative happenings on Capitol Hill as to the reason the cannabis industry has a “love-hate relationship” for the attorney general. But the truth of the matter is Sessions is no longer a problem for legal weed. Yet Congress still is.
It’s true that the first year and half with Sessions leading the Justice Department was full of uncertainty for the cannabis community. Sessions talked a big game about enforcing federal law every time the media asked about his plans for legal marijuana. He even suggested that all this legalization business was responsible for the opioid epidemic.
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At the beginning of this year, it appeared there might finally be a fight. Sessions rescinded the non-biding Cole Memo, which had allowed states to experiment with marijuana legalization without the threat of much federal interference. It was believed that the move was a warning of impending enforcement action. It was at this point that it could be said that the cannabis industry “hated” Sessions. But nothing happened.
A few months later, President Trump, without conferring with the attorney general, gave his word to Senator Cory Gardner that the Justice Department was not going to come swopping in to shut down the legal cannabis trade. Soon after, the president also said he would “probably” sign a bill aimed at eliminating the federal government from the marijuana equation.
Since then, Sessions has not said a peep about marijuana enforcement. There is no crackdown coming and there never was. The Justice Department is too busy dealing with Trump’s immigration directive, not to mention Russia and a slew of other issues, to give two hurling turds about the states that have legalized the leaf for recreational use. But that doesn’t mean that Sessions is doing anything to help the cause, either. The Department of Justice is still sandbagging marijuana research by not allowing the DEA to expand the federal government’s cannabis suppliers. And for this reason, the cannabis industry continues to hate Jeff Sessions.
But apparently, the cannabis industry also “loves” the attorney general because his controversial approach to legal weed has spawned an uprising in Congress that could, one day soon, lead to nationwide legalization. It was the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board that said “It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legalize cannabis.”
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But sadly, there really isn’t any movement in Congress over marijuana. A few bills have been filed, that’s about it. So far, none of them have even received consideration for a hearing. I suspect that none will. As I wrote in Forbes, “it may still be too early to get excited about the possibility of marijuana legalization going nationwide. There is still plenty of opposition in Congress that can and likely will prevent this much-needed reform from happening anytime soon.” None of this opposition includes Jeff Sessions.
So, let’s forget about this so-called love-hate relationship with the attorney general. In fact, lets forget about him altogether. He’s no longer an issue for legal weed. But we do need to summon a “hate-hate” relationship with Congress. If nothing else, the citizens of this country need to start recognizing that these career politicians are the real roadblocks for cannabis reform. They have the power to expand research and provide legal access. But, aside from a really small group of progressive’s, most have no interest in furthering the cause.