For many people associated with the world of legitimate and legal cannabis distribution, the turning of the calendar from 2017 to 2018 was particularly significant after residents of California - the most populous state in the U.S. - were finally allowed to purchase products for recreational use after passing Prop 64 in November 2016.
Yet, several days into the new year, U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, once again broached an overarching cannabis policy that, "will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it.”
This is particularly significant because although 29 states have adopted medical marijuana laws and seven more – including Massachusetts, where retail sales are scheduled to begin in July – classify it for recreational use based on referendums chosen by voters, the "law of the land" still categorizes it as an illicit substance.
Whether you're a cannabis user, or simply voted on it because you believe it should be a state issue not a federal one, Sessions' policy seems to continue a trend in U.S. government - much like net neutrality - where the few are still able to shape the lives of the many despite certified election results saying something different.
We reached out to a handful of marijuana experts from around the country that we admire to get a sense of how they feel in the wake of Sessions' reignited stance.
Here's what they had to say.
Scott Campbell, Beboe
The grey area between recreational and medical marijuana is just a passing moment where cannabis straddles the line of illegal/legal. It will eventually evolve into fully recreational as legislation and bureaucracy catch up with the needs and well-being of the public. Jeff Sessions is himself a relic of an irrational paranoid past that this country will soon evolve beyond. A future with decriminalized cannabis is inevitable at this point. It's much needed revenue for the state government (and federal once it comes around), [and] it has a direct and immediate reduction in violent crime and opioid addictions in communities in which it has been introduced.
There is no negative to recreational marijuana for anyone, aside from some stubborn old Republicans who take donations from pharmaceutical companies and privately owned prisons. Ask any Colorado law enforcement officer how they feel about it. If Jeff Sessions sends federal agencies after legal cannabis suppliers, it would be the best thing anyone could do to help give money and power back to the drug cartels. The genie is out of the bottle and people with common sense and compassion are thrilled about it, and willing to fight anyone that tries to put it back in.
Michael Ray, Bloom Farms
This feels like a step back and is scary on the surface but I am also optimistic that this will finally put pressure on Congress to make some changes toward how the federal government treats cannabis. Sessions has said before that if Congress wants to change the rules on marijuana than they should. This is an opportunity to change the laws and catch up to countries like Canada who are showing a smart approach to regulating and taxing the industry.
"Hawaii" Mike Salman, Chef for Higher
There is too much momentum amongst the states and voters for the government to stop the movement at this point. My concern with Jeff Sessions is the "Drug War" has never been about drugs, it’s always been a "War on Race." This is about controlling the industry and ensuring they can keep locking people of color up.
Ian Eisenberg, Uncle Ike's
Run, don’t walk to your nearest Ike’s. Sessions could close the door tomorrow. Stock up now better it’s too late.
Ariel Stark-Benz, Mister Green
It’s hard for me to get very fixated on an announcement like this. So much of this administration has been about creating shock. Hearing the news about offshore drilling was far more despicable because this will dangerously affect every single person on this planet.
To address the issue specifically though, it’s tough to say what will happen. Here in California, most cannabis companies have existed in a legal grey area for years and this kind of announcement is just creating more confusion for consumers. Perhaps the best thing for people to do if they want any certainty about getting product is to drop some seeds in the ground and take up gardening - it's easy to do and you'll know where it came from (so there won't be blood on your hands). You can buy seeds on eBay.
Bigger picture though, I genuinely believe that the tide has changed on cannabis in this country for good. This is likely a last ditch effort by some of the larger pharmaceutical companies who see themselves beginning their death march. This administration is represented by a bunch of old white men who want to keep the racist drug war alive, and if they can line their pockets while doing so - even better. History will not look kindly on them, and we should do everything we can to fight against their tyranny.
Noah Rubin, MERRY JANE
Now more than ever we need progress, intelligence, and justice. Jeff Sessions attack on the Cole memo is just a sad reminder of how truly out of touch this administration is with the American people.
For more marijuana news, read why Coachella is still banning weed at the festival.