In a week of too many government officials’ announcements to count, president-elect Donald Trump has announced that he has selected Republican Senator of Alabama Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III – or Jeff — as his Attorney General. Sessions’ new post is the same one that President Obama named Lorette E. Lynch to during his administration. Sessions is no friend to gay marriage, President Obama, or immigrants, and apparently he doesn’t like cannabis much, either. So what will Sessions’ appointment mean for the snowballing cannabis legalization movement, it’s patients, consumers, and the industry that just recently spread to states like North Dakota, Montana, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada? Like many aspects of Trump’s future administration, we’re not really sure. But we have some pretty good guesses.
Current Federal Marijuana Law
As you’re probably aware, the federal government currently views any type of marijuana (yes that includes your medical and recreational buds, dabs, tinctures, and edibles) as illegal. Marijuana remains at the Schedule I level of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of controlled substances, along with U.S favorites straight-up heroin, prescription heroin, cocaine, mushrooms, and MDMA. Why marijuana is still there is anyone’s guess. It’s now legal in more than 28 states, and recreationally legal in four more (Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, and California).
Alabama’s Marijuana Laws
Alabama’s marijuana laws are extremely limited, and allow cannabidiol use for patients, or caregivers of patients, with intractable epilepsy (“Carly’s Law”); debilitating conditions that cause intractable seizures (“Leni’s Law”); and the May 10, 2016 decision to allow industrial hemp cultivation in Alabama. In Alabama, HB 393 removes industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana in the controlled substances law at the state level; hemp can now be used in Alabama for cloth, food, paper, fuel, and other consumer products. If you thought Montana’s marijuana laws were tough, check out Alabama’s. Possession of any amount could get you one year in jail and up to a $6,000 fine; selling marijuana could net you up to 20 years and $30,000. Hash and concentrates will result in a felony, and a possible 10 years in jail and $15,000. Any of these fantastic convictions will suspend a driver’s license for six months, too – not that you need to drive when you’re in jail. For more on this cheery subject, go here. High CBD, low-THC cannabis extracts only are allowed for severe epilepsy.
What Will Trump’s New Attorney General Do?
The Attorney General of the United States’ position was created in 1789 in order to be the head of the Department of Justice (DoJ). The Attorney General oversees all U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Marshals, and other law-types appointed to the United States government. The Attorney General directs the operation and administration of the DoJ, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (yep, that’s the effin’ FBI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Bureau of Prisons, and the Office of Justice Programs. The A. G. represents the United States in legal matters, which there may be a lot of if Trump continues on his present path; the operation of the DoJ; gives advice and opinions on legal matters for the president and her – whoops, I mean his, cabinet and the heads of all executive departments and agencies of the federal government; makes federal judicial, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals positions recommendations to the president; represents or supervises U.S. government in the Supreme Court and all of our other courts; and performs other duties required by Executive Order or statute. I know that’s a mouthful, but I wanted to make sure we had all the information. Essentially, the A.G. is head of the courts, the U.S. Marshals, and all legal proceedings in the land.
Jeff Sessions and Marijuana
Jeff Sessions, as The New York Times noted, “is considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate, and in this video from Reuters you can literally see the joy shining in his eyes at the prospect of being Trump’s new Attorney General. Sessions is expected to take “hard-line” stances on terrorism, immigration law, crime overall, guns, and drugs, which probably includes cannabis. According to Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, the DoJ may be the most-changed part of Trump’s new government when he’s done. I mean, our new government. Turley noted that Sessions was a “real, in-the-trenches prosecutor” for most of his career, and he was also the first senator to endorse Donald Trump last February. Sessions was not chosen as a federal judge after his nomination in the 1980s due to racially charged comments he made (he called a black prosecutor “boy” and referred to the NAACP and the ACLU as “un-American”). Sessions also voted against Senator Patrick Leahy’s “sense of the Senate” resolution to keep the U.S. from barring people entry due to their religions. That’s quite a track record of intolerance, and since the new A.G. will oversee the DEA and other law enforcement agencies, he could choose to allow federal law enforcement to “come down hard” on marijuana industry participants even if they are following their own state’s laws. He has also spoken out against marijuana several times, according to Forbes.