We still don't know if Jeff Sessions -- an ardent cannabis prohibitionist -- plans to enforce federal prohibition now that he is on the cusp of becoming America's next attorney general. But President Trump's pick for the country's top law enforcer has already had a chilling effect on Alaska's marijuana industry.
In a surprise decision last week, the state's marijuana regulators rejected a proposal to allow on-site cannabis consumption at licensed retailers, meaning that people could buy marijuana and smoke it too at certain pot shops. Right now, people in Alaska can only smoke it in private property, so this measure would have opened up the market considerably.
But the Marijuana Control Board voted down the proposal 3-2 because Mark Springer -- the deciding board member -- was swayed by fears that opening up the market might draw the ire of Jeff Sessions. “It will draw a big spotlight on us,” Springer, who had previously supported the measure, said last week. “We don’t want to be waving a red flag in front of federal law enforcement, at least not now.”
He did, however, suggest that he would be open to reconsidering the issue down the road. "If we want to protect this industry … then maybe we should take a deep breath on this and think about it a little bit more,” he added.
The decision is arguably the first win for Sessions. But there's no indication yet if legislators in other states are as wary of the presumptive AG as Springer. States like New York, Vermont and Maryland are considering cannabis legalization bills this year. So the decision in Alaska might be a minor setback in another year of progress for the legalization movement.
Banner image: wikipedia.org / Gage Skidmore