Last week, the Senate voted 52 to 47 to confirm Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions as the new U.S. Attorney General. Since Jeff Sessions has always been vocal opponent of cannabis, it comes as no surprise that people in the cannabis industry feel threatened by his appointment. But is Jeff Sessions really that dangerous to the legal weed industry and thousands of medical marijuana patients?
Just like in case of Donald Trump, most fears over Jeff Sessions' appointment are based on his rich history of criticizing the idea of cannabis legalization. Jeff Sessions used to say that “good people don't smoke marijuana” and that marijuana is not “the thing that ought to be legalized.”
So the question is, will Sessions let his personal enmity towards the plant affect his future actions as the U.S. Attorney General?
The opinions on this matter are divided. Some pro-marijuana activists think that Jeff Sessions may be a threat to the legal cannabis industry. Even though eight states and D.C. have fully legalized the plant and 28 states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs, weed remains illegal on the federal level. Furthermore, with most legal marijuana states having very strict rules on tracking marijuana and requiring meticulous records on those who cultivate, process, or sell legal weed, federal prosecutors may easily get all the evidence they need to prosecute the cannapreneurs and shut down the entire industry.
At the same time, there are pro-marijuana activists and business owners who believe that Jeff Sessions will not take an aggressive approach. Plus, Jeff Sessions was less emphatic on the marijuana issue lately, saying that “it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.” And even if the federal government will decide to take a hard line on cannabis enforcement, there will be little to worry about for the individual users because the government just does not have the resources to go after millions of people.
The good news is that there are at least two things that can protect the marijuana industry and everyone involved in it from the federal prosecution. First, there is a memorandum issued by the Justice Department back in 2013. Basically, the document titled “Cole memo” protects the states with legal marijuana from federal intervention as long as they follow the so-called “enforcement priorities” that include, among other things, prevention of marijuana distribution to minors.
Secondly, there is the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act that aims to protect both businesses and individuals involved with marijuana from criminal prosecution as long as they do not violate the state's local marijuana laws.