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How Legalization's Biggest Opponent Could Be The Reason For It Happening

Roger Malespin  photo/istock/matt_benoit 

When President Trump choose anti-marijuana zealot Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General, the cannabis community rightfully thought it would be a huge step back for the movement. After making numerous political strides during the Obama administration, most importantly the Cole Memo, they all seemed on the verge of collapse once Sessions was confirmed. However, thanks to a combination of political stars aligning correctly and the vindictive, unpredictable nature of Trump himself, Sessions may have already done more good for the legalization movement than he ever thought possible. 

It’s common knowledge that Trump is one to hold a grudge, and is perfectly willing to spite even himself to get one over on a rival. The president is still angry over Sessions’ involvement with the investigation into any potential Trump/Russia connection during the 2016 election, and has said several times publicly that he would likely support some form of legalization. Most recently, he said he would ‘probably’ support the Senator Cory Gardner (D- CO) sponsored STATES bill. 
Sessions’ attempted war on the legalization movement has thus far backfired spectacularly. Not only have his efforts failed to secure significant support from congress, but his conflict with Senator Gardner was the catalyst that pushed Trump to say he would support his bill. 

For those who aren’t aware, Sen. Gardner was so angered by Sessions’ rescinding of the 2013 Cole Memo that he made it a point to very publicly block numerous Department of Justice appointments. Trump took notice of this and that’s when he stated to the media that he would probably support the bill. 

As reported by the Washington Post, “a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry . . . Furthermore, President Trump . . . assured [Gardner] that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

In light of Trump’s comments, Gardner lifted the political blockade of the DOJ, which topped out at about 20 nominees - a significant number. Sessions is also facing consistent pressure from both sides of the aisle because of his opposition to medical marijuana, which has quickly become a bipartisan problem thanks to the increasing awareness of the opioid epidemic. 

While states can breathe easy for a little while because of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which extends their protection from federal interference with cannabis laws until September 30th, what happens after is still up in the air. It’s unlikely that Sessions will act on his desires and risk further angering the president, but it is still of the highest importance for the STATES act to continue gathering support from lawmakers. 

The STATES act would make it illegal for the federal government to interfere in states marijuana laws, yet would still keep the classification as a schedule 1 drug. This is not an ideal situation for many cannabis advocates, but it is a necessary step in changing the law at the federal level. For now, we can relax a bit knowing that besides increasing political support for legalization, the nation’s biggest cannabis opponent has shaped up to be one of it’s biggest allies.