The appointment of Jeff Sessions as United States Attorney General (AG) was bad news for the cannabis industry. Even as states moved to legalize the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis, Sessions threatened the marijuana industry with a federal ban. The U.S. AG stoked discontent and anger within the cannabis industry by saying that he was not in favor of the federal legalization of marijuana, maintaining that the drug was “more harmful” than it seemed. But yesterday’s news that Session has departed from the White House reinvigorated the marijuana industry, with stocks of cannabis companies surging in the wake of news about his resignation.
But does Sessions’ departure from the White House really mean better things to come for cannabis in the United States?
What Does Sessions’ Resignation Mean For The Cannabis Industry?
While it’s still too early to predict how Sessions’ successor will approach marijuana legalization, the former Attorney General’s stance towards the industry was one of the more aggressive in recent years. From here on out, it may be an upward trajectory for the industry within the United States. There are two ways in which the cannabis industry may benefit from the U.S. AG’s exit.
First, Sessions’ departure may help open the doors for cannabis entrepreneurs to access better funding and payment options. The threat of a federal marijuana ban deterred many payment processors from providing their services to the industry. One New England payment processing firm stopped processing debit card transactions that involved marijuana, for example. Banks have also been reluctant to provide loans to entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, citing the possibility of a federal ban. Sessions’ hard-line stance brought that ban into sharp focus. With his departure, it is likely that payment providers may begin to make baby steps towards financing the cannabis industry.
Second, and more importantly, Sessions’ departure also marks a shift in the negative spotlight that has been aimed at the marijuana industry by the federal government. The former Attorney General’s comments acted as a significant dampener to the industry’s public perception at a time when multiple states were voting on the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana use. Stocks of cannabis-related companies dipped when Sessions spoke against cannabis or held up the specter of a federal ban.
A favorable or even neutral stance by Sessions’ successor could begin to chip away at that perception. President Trump has already signaled a positive outlook toward the federal legalization of marijuana. If Sessions’ successor follows the president’s lead, federal legalization of the industry might come sooner rather than later.