Earlier today, president elect Donald Trump announced that Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is his pick for Attorney General. During the campaign Sessions acted as a close advisor to Trump and was the first senator to hop on the Trump train. And now Sessions will ride that train straight to the top spot at the Department of Justice.
Just who is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III? Sessions is a true son of Dixie – born in Selma and raised in Mobile, he attended law school at the University of Alabama and served as the both state Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for Alabama. In 1986, Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions for a seat on the federal bench in Alabama. Sessions nomination was dead-on-arrival. The republican controlled Senate Judiciary Committee opposed his nomination when former colleagues testified that Sessions was a racist who often used the “N word” and made several other objectively bigoted statements, including joking that he was “okay” with the Klu Klux Klan until he learned that the Klan smoked pot; and calling a Black colleague “boy”. Ted Kennedy actually described Sessions as a “disgrace” to the Justice Department and said he should resign from his position as a U.S. Attorney. Now Sessions may be the next Attorney General, giving him tremendous influence over the future of federal cannabis policy. Seriously.
In 1996, Sessions was elected as Alabama’s junior Senator. In his 20 years in the Senate, Sessions has taken hard line conservative stances on immigration, voting rights and – marijuana.
Sessions’ probationary, anti-marijuana rhetoric reached a crescendo in March 2016, during a Senate hearing on marijuana, where Sessions spoke about marijuana prohibition as a “moral crusade”, later blasting President Obama for even talking about marijuana. Sessions claimed that the President’s flippant talk would lead young people to believe that marijuana poses no risks.
At the 2016 hearing, Sessions went on to claim that marijuana use is proven to lead to more drug use (the myth of marijuana as a “gateway drug” has been repeatedly debunked), that marijuana is causing “disturbances” in states that have legalized adult-use (what does this mean?) and cautioned his Senate colleagues that “good people do not smoke marijuana”.
So what does a Sessions nomination mean for the cannabis industry? Well, we don’t know yet, but it is safe to assume that if Sessions is confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate, the Trump administration’s marijuana policy will be a significant departure from that of the Obama administration. Trump will “keep us in suspense” about his approach to cannabis. Stay tuned.