What Sessions' Ousting Means For The Marijuana Movement
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
The elf is no longer on the shelf
It's a very weird time to be following politics, but with Trump in the White House, it seems it is immeasurably hard, even impossible, for citizens, both fans and critics, to look away for fear something else breaks. From the perspective of marijuana advocates, Trump has been something of a mixed bag when it comes to cannabis policy.
Though on the campaign trail he promised to leave marijuana alone, he appointed one of the most staunchly anti-marijuana politicians, Jeff Sessions, to head the Attorney General's office, and has quietly been working on a war against legal weed.
Jeff Sessions, often characterized by comedians as an elf thanks to his oddly striking resemblance to an elf on the shelf, has been anti-pot for the entirety of his political career, even going as far as to say, “This drug is dangerous. You cannot play with it. It’s not funny.” But now that Sessions has been given the ax, will Trump's stance on marijuana change, or will it be business as usual?
Why did Trump fire Jeff Sessions?
Let's not beat around the bush with this, Trump didn't fire Jeff Sessions to pave the way for marijuana reform. Far from it. Trump is being hounded by some of the best attorneys in the entire United States, for crimes it is appearing someone (possibly him, Roger Stone, Trump Jr.) committed during the 2016 presidential election.
Regardless of how you feel about that case -- and passions are understandably high -- it seems Trump is feeling the pressure of that investigation and is hoping to temper some of the smoke before it becomes fire. Getting rid of Sessions was the first of what will likely be many high profiles exits before 2018 is said and done.
Whether forcing Sessions to resign was a good idea or a really bad one remains to be seen, and it is fairly irrelevant to the topic at hand. No matter how you shape it, Jeff Sessions is out. And that could have serious implications for the marijuana movement, both medical and recreational.
Where does the acting AG stand on marijuana?
Following the exit of Jeff Sessions, his former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, is now the acting AG under Trump. But is Whitaker as vehemently anti-pot as Sessions vocalized? That's a little hard to telegraph at this point, unfortunately. But many cannabis advocates and entrepreneurs are reacting rather positively.
Though it is not likely that Whitaker will hold the job of Attorney General for very long, it is likely he will have the job while congress boils over Trump's picks and debates in their chambers. This process could last a few weeks, or it could take months of deliberation to determine who should take over for Sessions.
In the meantime, Whitaker could continue down Sessions' path, as the AG offices inch their way toward attacking legal medical marijuana businesses. That said, Whitaker's public stance on medical marijuana has been *somewhat* softer than Sessions.
According to a 2014 Senate debate in Iowa, Whitaker noted that he seemed in favor of CBD laws, but did not seem to like the idea of state's rights. “We have an attorney general that is telling state attorney generals, ‘if you disagree with a law, you don’t have to enforce it.’ And I am gravely concerned that we are now going to go back and forth between who’s in the White House and what their drug enforcement policy is, and you’ll see under what we have now—where you have Colorado and other states legalizing it really with no federal interference—and then when we come back, we may have a different regulatory scheme.”
In this same debate, when asked whether he considered marijuana to be a dangerous drug, Whitaker outlined the violence where he perceived marijuana to be the culprit, "For me, I saw the impact of marijuana on our border. And if you go to any of the counties in Texas where there’s an illegal importation of marijuana, there’s a tremendous amount of violence."
While violence tends to follow gangs and illegal trafficking of any product, be it marijuana or avocados, creating a violence equivalency with marijuana is dubious at best. But these statements seem to point us in the direction of Whitaker's policy, which is that he will fight for the administration, not for state laws, which could put marijuana laws, both recreational and medicinal, in jeopardy if he decides to pursue federal crimes.
The Great Green Migration
Marijuana is the Great Green Migration. There's no stopping it now. Too many states have realized that relaxed cannabis laws have not led to major societal disruption, but have led to serious tax revenues. Michigan legalized weed during the 2018 midterms. Two more states added MMJ laws, bringing the total number of medical marijuana states to 33, plus DC. Ohio loosened their decriminalization laws for reefer in five cities. And conservatives like John Boehner are pushing for legalization measures.
Also, as our readers likely know already, polls are indicating a dramatic shift in how the public views marijuana. Roughly 60-65% of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana fully, meaning that recreational and medicinal use would be allowed. And with less than 20 states left (17, to be exact) with no marijuana laws in their books, and more states getting measures on the ballot, it is only a matter of time until the entire United States goes green.
Whitaker may prove to be a thorn, but hopefully he will follow his president. And if Trump keeps to his word, he'll leave states rights alone, and this includes pot laws. But Trump isn't exactly known for keeping his word, so we'll see how things turn out over the next few months. As always, we'll keep you posted on any updates or news to this story as it develops.
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