I listened to almost all of Jeff Sessions’ Attorney General confirmation hearing today. Judging from the reaction of the national marijuana organizations, his answers were like the Great Blue/Black Dress Debate¹ of 2016.
NORML – the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws – is a membership organization that represents the nation’s cannabis consumers. NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri says Sessions’ vague answers could mean we are headed back to the era of federal attacks on marijuana:
“After finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions’ plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday. If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states.”
NCIA – the National Cannabis Industry Association – is a membership organization that represents the nation’s cannabis producers, processors, and sellers. NCIA’s Executive Director Aaron Smith seems to have found clarity in Sessions’ answers and says we’ll likely be continuing President Obama’s federal hands-off approach on marijuana.
“In today’s hearing, Senator Sessions indicated that the Justice Department’s current guidelines for marijuana policy enforcement are ‘truly valuable’ in setting departmental priorities. That belief, along with the support for state sovereignty on cannabis policy expressed by President-elect Trump and his team, should lead Sen. Sessions to maintain the current federal policy of respect for state-legal, regulated cannabis programs if he is confirmed as Attorney General.”
ASA – Americans for Safe Access – fights only for the protection of medical marijuana patients and providers. ASA’s Director of Government Affairs Mike Liszewski seems worried medical marijuana could come under attack by Sessions:
“The vague answers given by Senator Jeff Sessions during today’s Attorney General confirmation hearing provided little comfort for the 2 million American patients who rely on state-run medical cannabis programs to provide them with physician-recommended medicine. Each of the 44 states that have medical cannabis programs, including 15 states with patient access to CBD, such as Sessions home state of Alabama, technically violate federal law.
“While it is encouraging the President-Elect Trump’s incoming press secretary has said Sessions will abide by Trump’s position on medical cannabis, Sessions has yet to make such a commitment to respect state medical cannabis laws.”
MPP – Marijuana Policy Project – is strictly a policy organization with the goal of changing marijuana laws. MPP’s Director of Federal Policies Robert Capecchi says he’s optimistic that the federal hands-off policy will continue.
“It is notable that Sen. Sessions chose not to commit to vigorously enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have reformed their marijuana laws. He also recognized that enforcing federal marijuana laws would be dependent upon the availability of resources, the scarcity of which poses a problem. He was given the opportunity to take an extreme prohibitionist approach and he passed on it.
“It’s also promising that Donald Trump’s spokesperson said earlier in the day that the next attorney general would follow the president-elect’s lead on the issue. President-elect Trump has made it clear that he supports states’ rights to establish their own marijuana policies. Considering both Sen. Sessions and Mr. Spicer’s comments, we remain cautiously optimistic that the incoming administration will continue the current policy of not interfering with individuals and entities acting in compliance with state marijuana laws.”
I find it interesting that the two national organizations that deal directly with the consumers of marijuana are worried about Sessions shutting down the marijuana industry, while the two national organizations that deal directly with the big money in marijuana are telling us Sessions will continue the Obama Administration’s enabling of the marijuana industry.