If Trump Fires Sessions Will the Cannabis Community Be Better Off?


It is an understatement to say that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is no friend to the cannabis community. Throughout his political career, Sessions has been on the wrong side of history on marijuana, even joking that he thought the Klu Klux Klan were decent folks until he learned that some KKK members imbibe in the devil’s lettuce. Now that Sessions is clearly in Donald Trump’s doghouse (for recusing himself in the Russia investigation) and the AG is reportedly very upset with the president, we may see someone else leading the Justice Department very soon. If Donald Trump does indeed fire Jeff Sessions, will the cannabis industry and community, be better off? My gut reaction is that Drug War opponents can’t do any worse than Jeff Sessions, but, of course, someone about as bad, like Chris Christie or Rudy Giuliani, could be nominated to be our nation’s top law enforcement officer, and we haven’t made any progress at all.

The cannabis community, and Drug War reformers, were very wary of  Jeff Sessions‘ appointment to be Donald Trump’s attorney general, to say the least. While Trump promised to respect states’ rights on marijuana policy during the campaign, the president hasn’t been known to be very truthful, even by politicians’ standards, and campaign promises are broken frequently. Even Barack Obama, who implemented some positive cannabis and Drug War policies, raided state-legal medical marijuana providers during his first term, going against a pledge he made while campaigning in my home state of Oregon. Anyone that believes Donald Trump is welcome to buy a big beautiful bridge that I have to sell them, it truly is the best bridge. I have the best bridges.

The good news is that tough-but-dumb-on-crime candidates, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, would have a very hard time getting confirmation. The bad news is that Jeff Sessions is scheduled to receive recommendations from his anti-crime task force regarding a new federal marijuana policy, a potential update of the Obama-era Cole Memo, by July 27th. If the Trump Justice Department enacts a new policy that infringes upon the will of the Oregon voters, the next AG may not be confirmed before the existing policy does some serious damage upon good people following their state’s marijuana law.

The truth of the matter is that Jeff Sessions, or any potential successor, cannot stop the long-term viability of the cannabis industry, nor will any federal official stop our community’s long march toward freedom and equality. So long as we keep making progress city by city, state by state and even country by country, the cannabis industry is too strong and the public’s support of legalization is too high, for any Reefer Madness-inspired Drug War dinosaur to stop our advances. However, AG Sessions, or his successor, can unnecessarily hurt the lives of some industry participants, medical patients and ordinary citizens that now rely upon state-regulated cannabis businesses and the jobs and revenue they generate.

Some politicians will even want to shrink from their duty to protect the will of their voters. However, many elected officials will want to stand up for their constituents and against the federal government’s trampling of states’ rights. It will be imperative of those in the cannabis industry, drug policy reformers, and everyone that supports the will of the voters, to empower the politicians standing up for the sensible cannabis policies that have better prioritized law enforcement resources, created jobs and generated so much revenue.

No matter who is the sitting attorney general, or the federal policies they enact, the fight to end cannabis prohibition and implement sound regulations that benefit patients, consumers, small farmers and mom-and-pop businesses will go on. One of the benefits of cannabis conferences is the sharing of ideas between those on the front lines of the Drug War. It has motivated me to help organize the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference to help provide good information and networking opportunities to freedom fighters across the United States and the world. Meeting ICBC and OMBC attendees and learning of experiences of entrepreneurs and activists from across the globe always motivates me.

I hope to see many folks at the OMBC in November and the upcoming ICBCs in Kauai, San Francisco, and Berlin, Germany, in the coming months. Personally, while I feel for those that may be harmed by any misguided policies enacted by Jeff Sessions, or the next Trump AG, I know that a well-informed, motivated cannabis community, armed with great allies, united to fight for freedom, is ultimately unstoppable and will survive any Reefer Madness politician or policy.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.