Jeff Sessions' Marijuana Policy Surprises Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry is cautiously optimistic after Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

Cannabis industry remains hopeful in wake of Session's marijuana policy

Donald Trump's appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general did not at first indicate a bright future for marijuana. But when revealed in his confirmation hearing, Sessions' marijuana policy left cannabis industry leaders hopeful. One cannabis investor even called the hearing a "huge victory."

Troy Dayton, co-founder of Arcview Group, a cannabis industry investment firm, saw progress. "That's a huge victory considering Sessions' previous inflammatory statements about this topic," said Dayton.

Sessions has long opposed the legalization of marijuana. In a Senate hearing last year, hestated, "Good people don't smoke marijuana." And in the 1980s, he infamously "joked" that he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan were "okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana."

But as a Republican senator from Alabama, Sessions is a fierce proponent of states' rights. This leaves the industry hopeful, as over half of the states in the country have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.

During his hearing, Sessions did not guarantee that thegovernment would never enforce federal law. But he reasonedthat committing time and energy to marijuana policy is "a problem of resources for the federal government." The DEA is prioritizingthe growing opioid crisis over monitoring cannabidiol (CBD) products.

While not revolutionary, Sessions' marijuana policies were unexpectedly tolerant. Especially given his previous moral condemnation of cannabis. "The United States Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state, and the distribution of it, an illegal act," Sessions testified. "If that...is not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule."

Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project,considered Sessions' lenience notable. "He was given the opportunity to take an extreme prohibitionist approach, and he passed on it," said Capecchi.

Troy Dayton, co-founder of Arcview Group, a cannabis industry investment firm, saw progress. "That's a huge victory considering Sessions' previous inflammatory statements about this topic," said Dayton.

National Cannabis Industry Association's Executive Director Aaron Smith appreciated Sessions' deferral to Congress. "The responsible cannabis industry has helped countless critically ill patients, contributed billions of dollars to the economy and to tax coffers, taken marijuana out of the criminal market and put it behind a regulated counter, and dealt a significant blow to international cartels and traffickers," said Smith. "It's time for federal lawmakers to represent the clear choices of their constituents."

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Woman holding a nug of marijuana over a jar.
Image of a woman passing a marijuana (cannabis) joint to a friend.

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