The cannabis industry is celebrating a lot of good news this week — support for legalization continues to grow while opposition dwindles steadily. Voters in three more states passed marijuana measures to increase the legal availability of cannabis both medically and recreationally. Two highly visible cannabis opponents, House Representative Pete Sessions and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have departed from their respective federal positions.
Reports are estimating that the passage of recreational cannabis in Michigan, along with the medicinal cannabis measures approved in Missouri and Utah could generate upwards of $2 billion in medical and recreational sales. This additional round of state legalization is a clear indicator of our country’s continued march toward the ultimate objective for an end to federal prohibition. The new tally brings the total number to 33 states and the District of Columbia having adopted some form of legal access to cannabis.
This, coupled with the Democrat’s win in the House of Representatives and Pete Sessions failed re-election bid in Texas cannot be overstated. Sessions had been one of Congress’ most powerful and vocal marijuana prohibitionists and he used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to further his agenda. While serving in his role as Chairman, Sessions’ panel consistently blocked cannabis proposals from advancing to the floor for a vote, including several bipartisan proposals over the past few years. In fact, due to Pete Sessions, no cannabis amendments have been voted on by the House of Representatives in two years. This blockage has now been removed and cannabis advocates will gain a new friend in Democrat Colin Allred. The Congressman-elect is a civil rights attorney who campaigned on healthcare and has been vocal in his support for medical cannabis.
The cannabis community was already having a good week following the results of the midterm elections when the industry lost one of its biggest opponents in Washington on Wednesday afternoon when Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at the request of President Trump. Sessions, who once famously said “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” has pushed for greater enforcement of the federal ban on marijuana throughout his tenure as Attorney General. Last January, Sessions rescinded the prior federal guidance to U.S. Attorneys, which mandated a mostly hands-off stance for enforcement of federal cannabis law against people complying with state cannabis law.
As Attorney General, Jeff Sessions ultimately had little effect on states’ autonomy for allowing cannabis — his greatest impact was to discourage private investment into the industry and sustain barriers to financial services, such as banking and commercial lending. Jeff Sessions’ exit is credited for the boost in prices of most marijuana stocks and investments shortly after his resignation was announced. Canada-based Tilray closed up 30 percent while Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis rose 8.1 percent and 9 percent respectively. Cronos Group added 8.4 percent.
Although we can only speculate at this point regarding the speed and manner in which legalization will occur moving forward, the direction cannabis laws are headed leaves little doubt that cannabis prohibition is coming to an end.