And although many drug policy reformers are disappointed in the Sessions pick, some are holding out hope that they’ll be able persevere should he be confirmed.
“While the choice certainly isn’t good news for marijuana reform, I’m still hopeful the new administration will realize that any crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems they don’t need and will use lots of political capital they’d be better off spending on issues the new president cares a lot more about,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.
Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project, said he expects appointees who “serve at the pleasure of the president” to stick the president’s position.
“It would certainly be controversial if Sen. Sessions completely defied the president who appointed him,” Tvert said.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who has been at the forefront of efforts to reform marijuana laws at the federal level, called Sessions potentially helming the nation’s justice system “deeply disturbing,” considering his opposition to reform on issues like criminal justice, immigration and marijuana.
“I am hopeful that the next administration, regardless of the attorney general’s personal feelings, will respect the 10th Amendment and states’ rights to set their own policy in regards to cannabis,” Blumenauer said, calling on the Senate to reject Sessions’ nomination.
But Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a leading conservative voice on marijuana policy reform, told The Huffington Post that people shouldn’t be concerned about Sessions interfering with state marijuana policies as long as Trump upholds his campaign promise.
“The president of the United States will be making that decision and Trump has publicly stated during the election that he was in favor of letting the states make the decision on this policy,” Rohrabacher said. “Jeff Sessions is a loyal man with integrity, he will do what his boss wants him to do.”
He added that Trump likely picked Sessions because of the senator’s views on immigration, not weed.
“They have probably never discussed marijuana,” he said.
Still, Hudak said Trump’s notorious tendency to waffle on any number of issues is a reason for concern, and noted there is no indication that Sessions would help the marijuana industry.
“The only question is how much will he be allowed and to what extent, he will harm the industry,” he said.