The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Trump’s controversial nominee for attorney general, outspoken marijuana opponent Jeff Sessions, a former senator from Alabama.
Sessions was confirmed last night (Feb.8) in a 52-47 vote, with only one Democrat in the chamber backing the nomination.
When Trump named his pick for A-G last November, many in the cannabis industry were immediately worried that Sessions – who once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan were “OK until I found out they smoked pot” – could launch a new federal crackdown on pot businesses.
In a senate hearing last April, Sessions also urged government to send the message that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
But two of the more prominent American cannabis advocacy groups took a more measured stance, saying they expect Sessions will respect states’ rights when it comes to marijuana policy.
“President Trump has consistently said that states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and his spokesperson made it clear that the attorney general will be implementing the Trump agenda,” said director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project Bob Capecchi in a press release. “We are hopeful that Mr. Sessions will follow the president’s lead and respect states’ rights on marijuana policy.”
Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said: “We look forward to Attorney General Sessions maintaining the current federal policy of respect for legal, regulated cannabis programs in the states, and we will work with him to do that.”
Many others, including U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher – one of the cannabis industry’s staunchest allies in Congress – have also said they are confident Sessions won’t use his new position to persecute cannabis companies.
But during his confirmation hearings last month, Sessions gave little indication as to how he intends to approach the issue. He also stressed that the Department of Justice has limited resources but added he “won’t commit to never enforcing federal law” as it pertains to cannabis, which remains an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance.
There are two federal mandates regarding cannabis that may be impacted. One is the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, which stops the DOJ from spending federal money to enforce drug prohibition in states that have already decriminalized medicinal cannabis marijuana. The other is the DOJ’s Cole Memo, which states that national government will not interfere with state laws that legalize medical and recreational marijuana as long as they follow a set of guidelines.