Amidst all the other hoopla over the President’s cabinet picks, there has arguably not been a more clearly defined “moment of truth” for the cannabis industry than the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as President Trump’s new Attorney General.
Which, for the cannabis industry, means there’s a new sheriff in town.
President Trump indicated a softening position barely a week before the election, telling the Washington Post, "In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state". And prior to his Senator (now AG) Sessions’ arrival, it had largely been treated as such.
But AG Sessions has made little secret of his thoughts regarding marijuana use going back to 1986, when he joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was OK until I found out they smoked pot”. In fairness to AG Sessions, however ill-advised the remark was, any hyperbole that may have existed relative to the first part of the joke belies a likely unexaggerated view on the subject of cannabis. AG Sessions has not exactly been a supporter of legalization.
Still, the legislative path to ending cannabis prohibition is distinct relative to its closest relative, alcohol prohibition, occurring at a state-by-state grassroots level for cannabis versus top-down federal legislation (and a Constitutional amendment to repeal a prior Constitutional amendment) for alcohol. Indeed, most states allow some form of legalized cannabis or cannabis extract for medicinal use, while others may have decriminalized possession and still others are enjoying the increased tax revenue of legalized recreational cannabis.
With legislation changing so rapidly, and varying so widely between state lines, things can get confusing. Keeping track of what state has which laws is no easy task. Click here to see our infographic detailing degrees of legalization among all 50 states.
But one thing Depression-era (alcohol) Prohibition has with modern-day (cannabis) prohibition is money. Repeal of alcohol prohibition meant substantial growth in tax revenue just when America needed it, and cannabis prohibition has been generating billions in revenue, thousands of jobs and plenty of tax revenue for its host states.
Indeed, that very same money may be one reason why, late into his confirmation hearings, AG Sessions said "...the United States Congress has made the possession [of marijuana] in every state and distribution an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule..."
From our end of the internet, it sounded less like a legislative suggestion for Congress than a financial one for a nascent national cannabis industry lobby.
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.