If the past several months have seemed like cannabis’ ultimate federal legal status might be in another dimension, don’t worry – you’re not in an old Twilight Zone episode, even if our most prominent Department of Justice employee might sound like he’s giving the opening narration.
“Submitted for your approval: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Attorney General of the United States of America, a man determined to steal my job.”
What we do know about Session’s stance on cannabis is that he’s generally not a fan:
He does not like the idea of legalizing it ("I think one of [Obama's] great failures, it's obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana.")
He does not like people who use it ("good people don't smoke marijuana").
He once "joked" that the Ku Klux Klan -- an openly white nationalist group -- was "Okay until I found out they smoked pot."
Although, as extreme as his views might be, he still seems to leave room for state’s rights, if it serves his purpose, as it apparently did during his confirmation hearing,
"I won't commit to never enforcing federal law. I think some of [the Obama-era guidelines] are truly valuable in evaluating cases. Using good judgment about how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine. I know it won't be an easy decision, but I will try to do my duty in a fair and just way."
So how is anyone supposed to weed through (pun, intended) the mixed message? Is Sessions seeking enforcement, or a hands-off policy in legalized states, or just looking for a little love from the marijuana lobby?
Overall, Sessions seems to be going down the rabbit hole.
Case in point.
"Medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much."
As he addressed law enforcement officials in Richmond, the head of the Justice Department suggested that, "Medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much." He elaborated to say that his department may reconsider sections of the Obama-era policy that left marijuana legislation largely up to individual states.
For the millions of people who use cannabis oil or derivatives of cannabis for chronic pain relief, seizures, or other health conditions, the assertion that medical marijuana is over hyped is not only wrong; it is detrimental.
Marijuana is "only slightly less awful" than heroin.
What may have been slight chuckles in response to the idea that medical marijuana is overly hyped quickly transformed into loud guffaws when Sessions compared marijuana to heroin. He went on to assert that it was his duty to tell Americans the "terrible truth" in order to save lives and turn the tide on crime that follows marijuana use.
To be sure, the opioid crisis is a big deal -- death rates from heroin and opioid painkillers continues to rise, according to a newly released CDC report. But comparing marijuana to opioids flies in the face of science. Recent research confirms that marijuana doesn't serve as a 'gateway drug,' nor does it cause the addictions or harmful effects that opioids do.
While questions remain over marijuana and its impact on health, one thing is for sure: its legalization hasn't brought us to our knees. "What we know right away is that the sky didn't fall," Amanda Reiman, a researcher and marijuana policy expert explained. "We didn't see huge upticks in traffic accidents or people using marijuana."
Whether Sessions espouses these views in hopes of garnering more dough for his party's pockets (uncertainty breeds lobbying and lobbying breeds money), or if he is sincerely that out of touch with reality remains to be seen.
Stay tuned to Delta 9 for when you need your own unique narrator to guide your cannabusiness.
Dan Ogden is a 20+ year veteran of the executive search industry, having covered operations, regulatory and consulting verticals within capital markets as well as data science, data analytics and, more recently, the cannabis industry within search firm and internal corporate HR leadership roles. Dan is Principal of the practice at Delta 9, the Western Hemisphere's' only dedicated cannabis industry executive search firm. To find out how Delta 9's proprietary, trademarked end-to-end recruiting methodology can help you find the key executives to make your company thrive and grow in the cannabis industry, shoot us an email, or give us a ring at 212.390.8190.