After less than two years in office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned today at President Trump's request. A staunch cannabis prohibitionist, Sessions' term will be remembered notoriously by his revival of antiquated Reefer Madness scare tactics.
Having made statements like "good people don't smoke marijuana" and claims that cannabis is only "slightly less awful than heroin," Sessions' departure is considered a win for the cannabis industry. While Sessions will be replaced on an acting basis by his chief of staff Matthew G. Whitaker, it's yet to be revealed who will permanently take over his position.
Despite the suspense, cannabis industry leaders say there's little to worry about.
"I don't think there could be anyone worse," Michael Collins - Interim Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance - told Civilized. "We're definitely glad to see he's gone. He was a disaster for drug policy and he pursued an aggressive agenda for marijuana sentencing and opioid issues that set the country back in a lot of ways."
But even if Sessions indeed was the worst possible candidate for the role — at least from the perspective of marijuana law reformers — it's unclear that whoever takes over after Whitaker will be much better.
"The best case scenario is that you get an attorney general who learned the lessons of Jeff Sessions," said Collins. "So whoever the next attorney general is, if they are smart, they will look at Sessions' record and figure out where he went wrong and address that, such as to not be so aggressive on issues that have support in Congress and in the pubic."
The ideal replacement for Sessions would be someone like a US attorney from a legal state, suggests Morgan Fox - Media Relations Director at the National Cannabis Industry Association. "Someone who has respected state cannabis rights and recognizes it's a terrible waste of resources to target them."
As for the practical difference Sessions' absence will make, it's not as if his inflammatory, anti-pot rhetoric made that much of a difference in the first place. Even with Sessions' threats to crack down on the cannabis industry, the wave of legalization has only continued on its course.
"I think that hopefully lawmakers will feel more comfortable promoting comprehensive cannabis policy reform when they don't have the nation's top law enforcement officer breathing down their neck and pressuring them not to do so," added Fox. And with regard to investment and business activity within the industry, he predicts it will only speed up from here.
Like Fox, Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), also says it's vital that Sessions' replacement be someone who recognizes that most Americans want cannabis to be legally regulated and who opposes DOJ actions to interfere with state-sanctioned efforts.
"Attorney General Jefferson Sessions was a national disgrace," NORML executive director - Erik Altieri - said. "NORML hopes that he finds the time during his retirement to seek treatment for his affliction of 1950s Reefer Madness."
Sessions' resignation is widely considered a "milestone" for the cannabis industry, as Andrew O'Donnell - CEO of Punch Edibles - put it. "He created a lot of uncertainty at the federal level and now that he has been removed, we think we could see legalization within the next three to five years. This is a smart move for the future of the United States presence in the global cannabis market."