The US cannabis industry has been in limbo since Jeff Sessions was appointed as U.S. Attorney General. He has called on drug enforcement as a top priority, and has voiced his opposition to marijuana at every opportunity. As recently as September, Sessions argued Federal Law banning the use of the drug is “still in effect” in an attempt to denounce the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits DOJ from prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana operations by providing them with no funding to do so. He even asked Congress to undo medical marijuana protections.
However, he changed his tune during today’s congressional hearing where he conceded, “Obama-era guidance that allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference remains in effect”. Further he stated, “I believe we are bound by” a federal budget rider that bars the federal government from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws.” These statements were given under oath, so it isn’t likely he will go back on his word any time soon.
This development all but guarantees the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment will be incorporated into the Spending Bill. This is huge because many in the industry have been concerned the amendment would be dropped from the bill. If this were the case, an immediate crack-down on the industry could be implemented which would cause absolute chaos for the industry from consumers to producers and patients to caregivers. It is now much more likely the amendment will be added to the Spending Bill as Jeff Sessions is one of the last “dominoes” to fall in leading opposition to State’s rights regarding the cannabis industry.
Surprisingly, Sessions went on to agree with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) that marijuana is not as dangerous as heroin. This could potentially open up the door to a discussion for rescheduling cannabis to a more scientifically tenable status; such as Schedule III. In fact, that is precisely what H.R. 2020 intends to do which was proposed in the House April 6th, 2017. Today’s development may add significant weight to arguments for rescheduling as the Attorney General himself concedes marijuana does not fit the safety profile of a drug like heroin (as most rational humans do).
These developments were probably not expected by many, so will almost certainly provide renewed enthusiasm within the cannabis sector. While Canadian cannabis stocks have enjoyed significant gains over the last several months, US cannabis stocks have lagged behind. This is likely to change starting immediately and may provide substantial opportunity as speculators begin to place their bets for the coming implementation of recreational cannabis in California, the world’s 6th largest economy on January 1st, 2018.