Drug policy experts say one man, if appointed to U.S. Attorney General, has the power to threaten the state-legal marijuana industry that has taken root across the nation.
The Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit for drug-law reform, says President-elect Donald Trump's pick for U.S. Attorney General Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, if approved, could disrupt the industry's stability and certainty.
In a recent teleconference with reporters, Bill Piper, the Drug Policy Alliance's senior director of national affairs, called Sessions "a drug war dinosaur." Sessions is known in the Senate as a supporter of marijuana prohibition and Just-Say-No-era drug policies that focus on zero tolerance and incarceration.
"No one knows for sure what exactly to expect, but we should assume the worst," Piper wrote in a blog post.
A phone call and email to Sessions office for comment were not returned.
John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, tells Inc. that Sessions' moral objections to drug use would overrule any conservative views when it comes to state rights. "Sessions supports states rights when it suits him," he says. According to Hudak, a U.S. Attorney General could also rescind the Department of Justice memos issued under the Obama Administration that have allowed marijuana companies to exist without fear of DEA raids so long as business owners are not fronts for organized crime, do not sell to kids, and avoid other federal enforcement priorities.
"Jeff Sessions could have an existential and devastating effect on the marijuana industry as we know it," says Hudak. "His views are opposed to reform and opposed to legalization."
While entrepreneurs in the business are concerned, some expect that the industry will continue to expand unimpeded. Kyle Sherman, founder of FlowHub, a Denver-based software maker that helps companies stay compliant with state regulation by reporting sales and plant-tracking data, says he isn't planning to make any changes to his business but he is poised to stay flexible.
Despite the mostly positive outlook, business owners such as Sherman are ruminating on a range of scenarios from a drug-war escalation to allowing medical marijuana but going after adult use. "But there is also a chance they will not do anything at all and respect how the cannabis industry has created jobs, a wealth of new tax revenue, and reduced crime," says Sherman. He adds that he has trouble seeing how a crackdown on a flourishing industry would square with the President-elect's promise to revive the U.S. economy.
"We have tens of thousands of jobs in Colorado because of a regulated, transparent industry," says Sherman.