The cannabis industry expressed relief at the resignation/firing of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, but is it too quick for toast of celebration? Trump used positive marijuana messaging to punish Sessions in his feud over the Russian hearing. But Trump, a proud teetotaler, hasn’t really taken a strong stand either way. What has been clear is the closer you are to him the more influence you have. Remember his flip-flop on gun rights after his meeting with the then well-funded NRA?
On Sessions, Marijuana Policy Project’s Mason Tvert stated, “Marijuana policy reforms were being implemented in states around the country and the federal government was generally refraining from interfering. That is still the case, and hopefully it will continue to be the case under his successor.”
Sessions is a long-time opponent to the cannabis industry and has made it a personal mission to keep the public away from a drug he feels is very dangerous. He has encouraged the president to speak out about it and chided him for the lax treatment and comments on marijuana. Sessions lead the repeal of the Cole Memo that wound up being a big nothingburger and business proceeded without a pause. His whole approach stems from deep-seeded personal beliefs and he has not allowed facts and data to deter him from his mission.
Morgan Fox, spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said Sessions’ resignation is “welcome news” to the advocacy group. “Hopefully, it marks the end of reefer madness at the DOJ (Department of Justice),” Fox said, adding:
Given that there wasn’t any crackdown following the rescission of the Cole Memo, it might be just business as usual.
Industry insiders have used this period to grow companies, encourage investors and allow the industry to grow leaders like MedMen, GW Pharma and InsysTherapeutics without the oversized influence of giant industry’s like tobacco, alcohol or pharmaceutical companies. Once it is fully legal, those players will have the resources to bring significant change quickly, reaping huge profits for existing conglomerates.
Anthony Scaramucci, former White House Director of Communications, last week suggested President Trump could legalize cannabis after the mid-terms. Don’t hold your breathe, Scaramucci is also persona non-grata at the White House and there are doubts on his having knowledge of the administration’s thinking.
What we do know is that Matthew Whitaker, the acting U.S. Attorney General, is a known opponent of cannabis, a friend of Trump and his administration, and now someone who can pull levers. Trump tends to let favored leaders do as they please as long as the spotlight doesn’t take away from him.
The white knight hero in the story could turn out to be Congress. They sent a clear message to Sessions to keep his hands off marijuana, its medical benefits and its revenue. In May, the House Appropriation Committee, one of the most powerful on the Hill, voted to add a provision regarding funding the U.S. Attorney’s office that protected medical marijuana. Congress wants to be able to benefit from the public acceptance and the state taxes on cannabis and doesn’t want to upset the apple cart.
What we do know is that nothing will be clear until the first part of 2019, giving the industry more time to grow, organize and win over more of the public.