Following the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee and anti-marijuana stalwart Jeff Sessions, pro-pot groups responded with a blend of skepticism, concern and hope, according to a Jan. 10, 2017, post at Weed News.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, fears a return to federal intrusion in states with legalized medical or adult-use marijuana.
“After finally being put on the spot and questioned on the issue, we are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions’ plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday,” Erik Altieri, executive director for NORML, said. “If anything, his comments are a cause for concern and can be interpreted as leaving the door open for enforcing federal law in legalized states.”
Mike Liszewski, director of government affairs for the medical-marijuana interest group Americans for Safe Access, said, “The vague answers given by Senator Jeff Sessions during today’s Attorney General confirmation hearing provided little comfort for the 2 million American patients who rely on state-run medical cannabis programs to provide them with physician-recommended medicine. Each of the 44 states that have medical cannabis programs, including 15 states with patient access to CBD, such as Sessions home state of Alabama, technically violate federal law.
“While it is encouraging the President-Elect Trump’s incoming press secretary has said Sessions will abide by Trump’s position on medical cannabis, Sessions has yet to make such a commitment to respect state medical cannabis laws,” Liszewski said.
Aaron Smith, executive director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, hoped for a continuation of the current relationship between federal and state governments.
“In today’s hearing, Senator Sessions indicated that the Justice Department’s current guidelines for marijuana policy enforcement are ‘truly valuable’ in setting departmental priorities,” Smith said. “That belief, along with the support for state sovereignty on cannabis policy expressed by President-elect Trump and his team, should lead Sen. Sessions to maintain the current federal policy of respect for state-legal, regulated cannabis programs if he is confirmed as Attorney General.”
Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, shared some of Smith’s hope.
“It is notable that Sen. Sessions chose not to commit to vigorously enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have reformed their marijuana laws. He also recognized that enforcing federal marijuana laws would be dependent upon the availability of resources, the scarcity of which poses a problem. He was given the opportunity to take an extreme prohibitionist approach and he passed on it,” Capecchi said.
“It’s also promising that Donald Trump’s spokesperson said earlier in the day that the next attorney general would follow the president-elect’s lead on the issue,” he said. “President-elect Trump has made it clear that he supports states’ rights to establish their own marijuana policies. Considering both Sen. Sessions and Mr. Spicer’s comments, we remain cautiously optimistic that the incoming administration will continue the current policy of not interfering with individuals and entities acting in compliance with state marijuana laws.”