Under Jeff Sessions, America suffered an attorney general grotesquely unfit for his position—yet was somehow not quite as corrupt as Donald Trump required. This was a man too racist to serve as a federal judge in Alabama, as well as too racist and too unremarkable to merit attention for almost 20 years in the U.S. Senate, except as an antebellum curio. That was until a presidential administration friendly to both white nationalists and foreign agents came along. However, triggering a constitutional crisis by firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller made him queasy, and so Sessions had to go.
Sessions’ long-planned and long overdue exit on Wednesday afternoon, in the wake of the Republican Party’s loss of the House of Representatives during the midterm elections, was rightly celebrated by advocates for civil rights, immigrant rights and marijuana legalization. Sessions was an enemy to all of the above, and then some.
But in cannabis circles at least, this revelry is misleading and misplaced. Jeff Sessions’ departure does not mean much for cannabis legalization. And, despite all the absurd statements and vague threats, neither did his presence. On Sessions’ watch, we saw the legalization of recreational marijuana in Vermont and Michigan, and the advance of drug policy reform in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio—all Trump states. The world’s largest marijuana dispensary opened in Las Vegas, the world’s largest marijuana market opened in California, and an American marijuana company sealed a $681 million deal. Jeff Sessions, the Klan-friendly lawn jockey, did nothing.
But neither did Congress; key Republicans chairing key committees blocked every marijuana-friendly bill within a mile radius. But at last, that’s all over. Attorney generals enforce the laws—they do not make them. Laws are made in Congress, where, come January, another Sessions—Pete Sessions, no blood relation to Jefferson Beauregard—will no longer represent Texas’ 32nd District.
And neither will he, nor any other Republican, chair the House Rules Committee, where Pete Sessions “has consistently blocked all cannabis proposals from advancing over the course of nearly two years,” as Marijuana Moment’s Tom Angell wrote in February.
Pete Sessions, who had been in Congress since 1997 and did not face a Democratic challenger last time out, was soundly defeated by Democrat Colin Allred—a civil rights lawyer, a former NFL player and a black man—on Tuesday, 52.2 percent to 45.9 percent.
With Pete Sessions’ exit Congress is losing the man who the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) described as a “leading marijuana prohibitionist.” According to NORML’s tally, Pete Sessions obstructed almost 40 marijuana-related bills from even receiving a hearing. Not unlike Jefferson Beauregard, Pete Sessions pushed blatant falsehoods, such as marijuana being highly addictive and today’s weed being “300 times more powerful” than cannabis seen in the 1970s.
Under Sessions, providing marijuana to military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, allowing marijuana businesses to access bank accounts or be taxed like other businesses, and giving state-legal marijuana businesses some semblances of legal protection were topics unworthy of discussion.
“Representative Pete Sessions was the single greatest impediment in the U.S. House to the passage of common-sense, voter-supported marijuana law reform measures,” NORML political director Justin Strekal said in a statement. “His departure opens the door for the possibility of House lawmakers in 2019 enacting a number of significant, NORML-endorsed policy changes.”
In attempting to unseat him, Allred focused on Sessions’ role in seeking to dismantle Obamacare, which would have seen an untold number of his constituents lose healthcare. Sessions recognized this at the 11th hour but ultimately did nothing to protect neither vulnerable Americans nor his seat.
And so he is gone, as is the main roadblock to marijuana reform in America. Who the Democrats appoint to replace him remains to be seen, but the likelihood that Congress will pass marijuana-friendly legislation—maybe, even, marijuana legalization at the federal level—just increased exponentially. Delay and mendacity will be Pete Sessions’s legacy. But it will be one we will soon forget.