President-elect Donald Trump's choice for attorney general, the nation's top cop, is an Alabama senator who said in April that “marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions also once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was OK until I found out they smoked pot.” And then there was the time he said, “Good people don't smoke marijuana.”
Sessions' long-held opposition to legalization has cannabis advocates running scared. The attorney general has the authority to prosecute drug criminals. Keep in mind that marijuana is still federally outlawed, grouped alongside heroin, LSD and MDMA. Though California just legalized recreational marijuana on Nov. 8, that doesn't mean the U.S. Department of Justice has to abide by that.
Marijuana parties in California are sometimes known as “sessions.” If the senator is confirmed as attorney general, we expect there will be a name change. We collected statements from some of the movement's leaders, below:
Tom Angell, chair of Marijuana Majority:
“While the choice certainly isn't good news for marijuana reform, I'm still hopeful the new administration will realize that any crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems they don't need and will use lots of political capital they'd be better off spending on issues the new president cares a lot more about.
“A clear majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and supermajorities across party lines believe that states should be able to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference. The truth is, marijuana reform is much more popular with voters than most politicians are, and officials in the new administration would do well to take a careful look at the polling data on this issue before deciding what to do.
“During the campaign the president-elect clearly pledged to respect state marijuana laws, and he should keep his word — both because it’s the right thing to do and because a reversal would be a huge political misstep.”
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance:
“Jeff Sessions is a drug-war dinosaur, which is the last thing the nation needs now. Those who counted on Donald Trump’s reassurance that marijuana reforms 'should be a state issue' will be sorely disappointed. And not just Democrats but the many Republicans as well who favor rolling back the war on drugs had better resist this nomination.”
Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance:
“Donald Trump's decision heralds a return to the worst days of the drug war. Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp,’ but he's gone to the very bottom of the drug-war barrel for this pick.”
Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access:
“Throughout the 2016 campaign, President-elect Trump repeatedly said he supports medical cannabis and that he believes states should be able to set their own policies in this area. Many medical-cannabis patients and their families supported his candidacy because they believed he would be better on this issue than his opponent. However, the nomination of Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general of the United States is a tremendous cause for concern to medical-cannabis patients and their families.
“President-elect Trump needs to reassure the more than 300 million Americans living under some sort of medical-cannabis law that his attorney general will honor his campaign pledge to respect state medical-cannabis programs.”
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association:
“Voters in 28 states have chosen programs that shift cannabis from the criminal market to highly regulated, tax-paying businesses. Sen. Sessions has long advocated for state sovereignty, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that states' rights and voter choices on cannabis are respected.”
David Dinenberg, CEO of Kind Financial, a marijuana industry financial-services firm:
“Jeff Sessions is no friend of the legal cannabis movement and there is really no way to spin the nomination in a positive light. The industry was hoping to avoid Chris Christie as attorney general because of his lack of support. Now, I am pretty sure this is no better and maybe worse.”