President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions (R- Ala.) to be the next attorney general, leaving many concerned that states which have legalized marijuana may be prosecuted under federal law by the Trump’s Justice Department.
In April, Sessions said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” while attending a Senate hearing. A well-known hardliner on drug enforcement, Sessions does not make an exception for pot.
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington saying marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” he said. “You can see the accidents, traffic deaths related to marijuana. And you’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think.”
If Sessions is confirmed, his views on pot legalization could spell trouble for not only activists, but also the eight states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational use. Those eight states do not include more than a dozen states that have approved medical marijuana use by residents. Alabama does not allow either.
Although Trump’s win was not the mandate he has claimed, there was a windfall of pro-marijuana laws that were passed in different states this month.
Following the election on Nov. 8, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts all voted to make pot use completely legal within their borders. In-face, comparing a map of marijuana legalization, including medical use, to a map of Trump’s electoral wins, one will notice a large amount of overlap. The legalization of cannabis, especially for medical use, increasingly seems to be a bi-partisan issue, with citizens voting in favor regardless of party affiliation.
Despite marijuana’s increasing social acceptance, however, it may not matter if Sessions does indeed become attorney general. The Obama administration has dealt with pro-marijuana states with directives stating that the federal government will not try to enforce federal laws regarding the drug. However, according to the editor of trade publication Marijuana Business Daily, Chris Walsh, that federal policy could quickly change.
“Theoretically, the new administration could basically tear up those memos, and all of these businesses would be in clear violation of federal law,” Walsh said.
Would the incoming Trump administration risk angering the millions of Americans who can now smoke marijuana legally? Possibly. Trump partially ran on a pro-business platform and marijuana is a booming industry, slated to be worth over $23 billion in the next four years.
It is possible those dollar signs will be enough to persuade Trump to rein in any ambitions Sessions may have about shutting it down.
[AP] [CNN] [Esquire] [Business Insider] [National Public Radio] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call]