What does Sessions’ resignation mean for the cannabis industry?

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Cannabis industry professionals and advocates alike are rejoicing following yesterday’s announcement that Jeff Sessions officially resigned as attorney general as requested by President Trump.

Sessions was one of the biggest opponents to the legal cannabis industry. Early in 2018, he moved to rescind the Obama-era policy that allowed each state to create and make decisions on their own about cannabis without the federal government interfering or enforcing federal law. The move sent stock prices plunging almost immediately after California fully legalized on January first.

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions said at a hearing in April of 2016. “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized. It’s in fact a very real danger.”

He often associated marijuana as being a gateway drug to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, and also connected it to the opioid epidemic in the United States, even though most research reveals that cannabis can in fact reduce opioid overdoses.

Sessions tendered his resignation Wednesday afternoon, and as one of the biggest enemies and threats to the legal industry, Sessions’ departure from his position offers a glimpse of hope that marijuana could become legal at the federal level, perhaps in the near future.

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“He was the biggest foe in the administration,” said Ken Shea, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “This might give Trump a little more wiggle room to be more cannabis oriented.” With Sessions out the door, businesses can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment.

The industry was already having a good week following the results of the midterm election with Michigan becoming the tenth state in the country, and the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational cannabis. Missouri and Utah also voted to legalize medical marijuana while Illinois elected a governor who is legalization-minded. The Democrats winning the House of Representatives is also assumed to have played a role in rising stock prices, but after Sessions’ resignation, stocks soared.

Tilray shares surged 31 percent, pushing the company back above a $13 billion market cap, according to The Motley Fool. Aurora Cannabis, Cronos Group and Canopy Growth Corp. rose 9 percent, 8 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

The disconnect between state and federal laws on cannabis makes it incredibly difficult for legitimate cannabis businesses to bank safely because banks were unwilling to have them. Sessions being gone will hopefully clear the road between businesses and banks so that money can be banked safely.

Trump has appointed Matthew Whitaker, Session’s chief of staff, to be the acting attorney general but it’s currently unclear who might replace him and when. Recent polls show that a majority of Republicans are in support of legalization so hopefully whoever is chosen for this role will follow suit and perhaps federal legalization is closer than we thought.

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