Potential Attorney General Gives a Mixed Message on U.S. Marijuana Crackdown

Potential Attorney General Gives a Mixed Message on U.S. Marijuana Crackdown
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U.S. Marijuana Crackdown in the Works?

One of the major concerns for the marijuana industry when President Donald Trump first assumed office had much more to do with Trump’s people rather than the man himself.

While Trump has been characteristically cagey and capricious when it comes to marijuana in the U.S., his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was not. Sessions threatened a U.S. marijuana crackdown by expressing on multiple occasions his desire to use federal law to interfere with state marijuana legislation that has since seen cannabis legalized in 10 states and D.C.

Sessions came in hot and heavy to start his time as AG. Besides going on record multiple times espousing the view that marijuana was a singularly dangerous drug that ought not to be permitted for use in the U.S., his most worrying move was the rescinding of the Cole Memo—an Obama-era directive that permitted states to tend to their own marijuana laws without fear of federal interference.

In the end, however, Sessions proved unable to follow through on the dreaded U.S. marijuana crackdown. Several more states legalized pot under his watch while legal cannabis sales continued to climb in the states that had already permitted its use.

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But Sessions is out now, and Trump’s next potential attorney general is providing mixed messages concerning how he would like to handle the legal limbo that U.S. marijuana laws currently find themselves in.

William P. Barr U.S. Marijuana Crackdown

The next potential attorney general—William P. Barr—was recently questioned in Congress in the lead-up to his potential confirmation. One of the major topics of discussion was marijuana in the U.S.

Seeing as how Sessions had a very cut-and-dry view on marijuana, Barr has so far proven to have a better—albeit more mysterious—stance on pot.

The good news is that, unlike Sessions, Barr has stated that he has no intention of using federal law to prosecute marijuana companies that are in compliance with state law.

This, in effect, is a return to the much-celebrated Cole Memo.

“I’m not going to go after companies that have relied on the Cole memorandum,” Barr said before Congress. (Source: “William Barr Won’t ‘Go After’ Marijuana Companies, He Tells Senate Panel,” Bloomberg, January 15, 2019.)

The bad news, however, is that Barr also went on record saying that he would support a federal law prohibiting recreational marijuana in the U.S.—even in states where the drug is legal:

…we should either have a federal law that prohibits marijuana everywhere, which I would support myself, because I think it’s a mistake to back off on marijuana. However, if we [don’t] want a federal approach, if we want states to have their own laws, let’s get there, and let’s get there the right way.

(Source: Ibid.)

The overall sentiment, then, is that while Barr may be no ally to weed, he is at the very least open to the idea of letting the states have their say when it comes to the drug.

Furthermore, while it may be concerning to see the top law enforcement head in the country say that he would like to see federal law prohibit marijuana more stringently, ultimately he cannot affect that law without Congress first passing legislation—something that is very unlikely to happen.

Seeing as how marijuana acceptance has only swelled in recent years, the chances of U.S. marijuana legalization taking a massive step backward by way of a national bill is slim.

So, with all that being said, it appears that this potential AG will be a better friend to pot than Sessions, even if it is just a reversion to the status quo of the Obama-era.

Marijuana Law U.S.

One final thing worthy of note when looking at marijuana in the U.S. is the legal standing of pot.

While 10 states and D.C. have all legalized marijuana for recreational use, there have has also been strong gains made on the national stage.

The most recent legislative victory came by way of the U.S. Farm Bill 2018. With it, America now permits the cultivation of hemp across the entirety of its territory. Hemp, you’ll remember, is a cannabis plant that contains many of the compounds found in marijuana, save for the high-inducing substances.

As a result, cannabidiol (CBD) is likely to see a surge in use throughout the country. The farm bill has essentially opened the door for companies—both American and foreign—to enter the U.S. market, hoping to gain a foothold in the most lucrative marijuana market in the world.

With that in mind, the U.S. has never been friendlier to marijuana. We could see large marijuana companies finally be able to capitalize on the market as early as this year, depending on how the U.S. handles CBD regulation.

Analyst Take

William Barr for AG will, in the end, likely see a reversion to the norm of states leading the push for marijuana acceptance in the U.S.—and that’s okay.

It’s certainly better than the alternative of a U.S. marijuana crackdown. As such, if Barr does find himself serving as AG, we’re likely to see fears of a U.S. marijuana crackdown finally die—for good.