Elections on Tuesday are slated to have some major impacts on the marijuana policy both on the short and long haul. With Michigan becoming the tenth state to legalize marijuana for adults followed by favorable ballot counts in Missouri and Utah bringing the number of states with legalized marijuana laws to 33 in the books.
The scenario in the marijuana industry is up for changing especially with several pro-legalization candidates being elected to Congress and governorship, along with two most noteworthy prohibitionist members who won’t be returning to office in 2019. But one of the biggest and momentous changes that can impact the marijuana industry involves that of the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Jeff Sessions, who was quite outspoken with his prohibitionist and dated views, had resigned under the request of President Trump over the dispute on the Mueller investigation.
With a new candidate required to fill in the role of US Attorney general, the shuffle in the office can spell either a boon or bane for the cannabis industry. In spite of the ambiguity of the circumstance, there are reasons for the industry to be optimistic.
Events Following the Resignation
In a chain of events following the ouster of Jeff Sessions, the stocks of cannabis immediately rose by late Wednesday. However, by Thursday, the stocks had fallen to its preceding levels as investors comprehended the ambiguity that surrounds the next US General who could pave way for either the success or fall of the medical marijuana business.
While in office, Sessions actively tried to reverse progress on marijuana reforms by rescinding the Cole memo that restricted the Justice of department from prying on the state program. But given the conflict of interest over the Mueller investigation with Trump, it rendered Sessions ineffective in his other moves.
And although Trump publicly conflicted with Sessions on the legalization of marijuana, stating that states should be able to frame their own policies, it is to note that the sacking of Sessions came about clearly over the disagreement on the Russian investigation.
Now with the next attorney general to be nominated, it will inevitably influence the future of the cannabis industry in the nation.
Trump picks Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General
Jeff Session’s former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker had taken the role of Attorney general on a temporary basis until a permanent Attorney general is designated and confirmed by Senate. With Republicans representing key figures in the Senate, it will be an easy task for the nominated member to be elected.
It may come as no surprise if Matthew Whitaker ends up being chosen for the position of Attorney General on a permanent basis.
Though Whitaker’ stance on the cannabis industry can be unclear given his mixed run-ins with the industry; he appreciated State’s CBD only medical marijuana law but followed it with an attack on Obama’s DOJ for failing to take action against violations of federal law in states with legalized marijuana. But hopefully one can consider his criticism as an attack against the rule of the Republic party rather than a steadfast notion of intervening in states right.
However, if Trump opts for another member to serve as the permanent attorney general, it could be very beneficial or detrimental to the marijuana industry. Though a major section of voters of Republic party support legalization and proper regulation of marijuana, the cause of concern lies with the party establishments. Even with some members supporting the state’s independent approach to the cannabis industry, many outdated and staunch prohibitionists could be at the running for the position.
What’s the Worst Possible Outcome?
The worst possible scenario would be with President Trump electing an attorney general who, a prohibitionist, would also follow up with the Mueller Investigation, unlike Sessions.
Since the marijuana policy does not ring as a big priority for president Trump, it is possible that he may end up drafting a bargain where the new attorney general, in return, could pledge support to President Trump in the ongoing investigation and may attain prerogative over policy issues that they disagree on.
A known prohibitionist and opponent of marijuana reform like former NJ Governor Chris Christie who may fit the bill can inevitably shake up the industry. With him seriously considered as a potential candidate for attorney general, his staunch political views added with the uncertainty can severely affect the state legal cannabis business ventures and also shrink potential investors’ interests.
And the Best?
Of the best outcomes to entail after the stepping down of Jeff Sessions would be with President Trump recognizing marijuana legalization to be a winning issue that has a wide scale support among its varied age group of voters and elects a suitable candidate who would capitalize on the growing issue.
This could also lay the groundwork for Trump taking on 2020 elections with the mantle of legalization of marijuana which is widely supported by several youths especially in states of Florida and Michigan
A person fitting of the bill could be Senator Lindsey Graham, who although not an outspoken supporter of the marijuana reform, had been instrumental to Trump’s victory and a key ally.
He also signed up as a sponsor for the CARERS Act of 2015 which would have legalized medical marijuana federally. Though Graham stated that he would never want the job when the president had jokingly asked, it may not be the end of the road, where he may reconsider and accept under suitable circumstances.
A Positive Outlook
Irrespective of the person who would be appointed as the next US attorney general, there is a general consensus that the government would be forthcoming to the growing medical marijuana industry in the coming year.
Even under the arch-prohibitionist former attorney, Jeff Sessions, cracking down on state-legal marijuana business ventures was never pursued with full tenacity by the Justice Department. Though one may never be sure, it can be assumed that it might have been the case due to the political considerations of individual U.S attorneys.
A U.S. attorney general can set up prosecutorial priorities; however, he or she cannot direct the attorneys to which cases they can pursue.
Even if attorneys are not elected officials, the position, in many cases, serves as a Launchpad to furthering their office ranks, like in the case of Chris Christie, who kicked of his political career after serving as US attorney. The prosecutors are often appointed to serve the states in which they live, and after which they have the opportunity to run for office. Targeting and intervening on a program chosen by a wide range of citizens and licensed by the state agencies would hardly do the groundwork for a successful political career apart from alienating them from the likes of his/her voters.
It may not be possible to predict what direction President Trump will head regarding the issue. And although several other factors contribute to the nomination of AG, it is important for the president to elect a candidate with consideration to states right and reforms, given the legalization of marijuana in several states.