It’s been several months since Jeff Sessions got the axe. The Alabama lawmaker was forced to resign as Trump’s Attorney General in November, and his prospective replacement, William Barr seems like a huge improvement.
If only because he says he won’t go after pot businesses in states where cannabis is legal. Unlike his predecessor, Barr seems pretty chill.
It was no secret that Sessions was vehemently opposed to the legalization of marijuana. The Alabamian said that pot creates a “life-wrecking dependency,” called all pot smokers “bad people” and made the claim that pot is only “slightly less awful” than heroin.
As confused as Sessions may have been about cannabis, as Attorney General he had the power to act on his misguided opinions. And in fact, last January he actually rescinded the Obama-era policy that paved the way for states to make cannabis legal recreationally — a move that raised objections from both Democrats and Republicans and struck fear into the hearts of many in the marijuana industry. With someone like Sessions at the helm of the Attorney General’s office, the cannabis industry did not feel like a safe or stable business to carve a living out of.
However, Trump’s new appointment for the office, William Barr, doesn’t harbor the same animosity towards pot. In fact, he flat out admitted during his testimony that he, if appointed, would not waste his time or America’s resources persecuting cannabis businesses in legal states.
“My approach would be not to upset settled expectations,” Barr said during his testimony. “Investments have been made, so there has been reliance. However, I think current situation is untenable. It's almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.”
BARR on marijuana: "My approach would be not to upset settled expectations… investments have been made, so there has been reliance. However, I think current situation is untenable. It's almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law"
Says he supports fed criminalization. pic.twitter.com/EsfATpxUpc
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 15, 2019
Barr made it clear that he still supports federal criminalization of cannabis as a drug. So, you won’t see him sparking up a blunt any time soon, but at the same time he respects the choices of cannabis legal states.
“I’m not going to go after companies that have relied on the Cole memoranda,” Barr said in the hearing.
For the unfamiliar, the Cole memoranda was the Obama-era policy that stated that the federal government would not enforce federal marijuana prohibition in states that, “legalized marijuana in some form and … implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana.”
In other words, the Cole memoranda basically said: do what you’re gonna do, we’ll look the other way if your pot is well-regulated.
That policy made it possible for the cannabis industry to flourish like it has in places like Colorado, Oregon, California and Nevada. It opened the doors to the cannabis garden of Eden, and thereby stimulated the economies of every state with recreational weed.
That’s why Sessions wanted to rescind it. He hated the fact that states were allowed to legalize and regulate the sale and distribution of Devil’s Grass, and he wanted to do everything in his power to stop them from doing so.
Which, may be part of the reason why he’s gone now. Trump never had any beef with marijuana or the industry as a business. In fact, during his 2016 election Trump similarly promised that he wouldn’t go after states who voted to legalize cannabis on their own. He’s a businessman, after all, and when you look at the pot industry it’s hard to see anything but green.
Barring any unforeseen scandals, Barr will, in all likelihood be appointed to the position of Attorney General. Which is positive news for everyone in the cannabis industry and for every cannabis legal state in the country.
So go ahead — toke up everyone. We're safe now.