In November, the country elected a new president who promised to shake up Washington. At the same time, the cannabis industry took a giant leap forward with seven states voting yes to measures further legalizing marijuana. In total, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine legalized recreational use, and Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas legalized medical use, bringing the total number of states with legal marijuana to 29.
The recent slate of successful marijuana-related measures at the state level could be viewed as a national referendum on cannabis. The “yes” votes cut across party lines and presidential candidates. Today, two-thirds of Americans live in states with legal access to cannabis.
California, the first to pass medical marijuana two decades ago, is arguably the most significant bellwether state in the evolution of cannabis. It is the country’s most populous state, the sixth largest economy in the world and a cultural trendsetter. California’s Proposition 64 legalizing adult use of marijuana passed with 57 percent of the votes.
Since then, there has been much speculation about what one event means for the other.
As President-elect Donald Trump nominates members of his cabinet, some have conjectured about what U.S. Attorney General appointee Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, might mean for the future of the cannabis industry. The sober conclusion? Very little.
It is true that Mr. Sessions publicly has expressed contempt for marijuana users, but it is a giant leap to equate one’s personal stance with a public policy position that will impact millions of lives. You can be a teetotaler, but still believe that the best way for government to control alcohol consumption is to regulate it, not ban it.
What we do know, from a policy perspective, is that Mr. Trump is on the record saying marijuana policy is something best left to the states, a position consistent with Republican Party’s core doctrines.
U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a long-time supporter of marijuana policy reform in Capitol Hill, told reporters recently that he trusts that Mr. Trump’s hands-off approach is likely to prevail.
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