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This week’s issue will read a bit differently:
 
On a conference call with reporters this week, Bill Piper, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Senior Director of National Affairs, discussed the nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) for U.S. Attorney General:

“Civil rights groups point out that Sen. Sessions has been one of the Senate’s most extreme voices on issues affecting immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, Latinos, Women and the LGBT community. He has a long record of obstructing civil rights.
 
“In the area of drug policy reform, Sen. Sessions is a drug war dinosaur. His has nearly singlehandedly blocked bipartisan sentencing reform in the Senate. Sessions has been critical of the Obama Justice Department’s guidelines around sentencing that were designed to limit harsh sentences, and he has criticized the Justice Department’s use of consent decrees that force local police departments to address police brutality, racial profiling and other civil rights issues. He opposes giving formerly incarcerated individuals the right to vote.   

“He recently described marijuana as a dangerous drug and said that, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He has criticized the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws.
 
“If confirmed as U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions could escalate the failed war on drugs. He will likely use his position to oppose any kind of sentencing or criminal justice reform…He could also undo the Cole Memo which provided guidance to U.S. attorneys instructing them to generally not raid marijuana dispensaries in states where it is legal.
 
“The war on drugs could also be a weapon that Sessions and the Trump administration use to spy on, investigate incarcerate or deport immigrants and other targeted groups. Already, President-elect Trump has said he wants to aggressively deport any immigrant who commits any offense, no matter how minor, including drug offenses...Senator Sessions could not only escalate the war on immigration and the war on drugs, he could combine them.
 
“He was deemed unfit to be a Federal judge in 1986 and I believe he will be deemed unfit to be U.S. Attorney General when the Senate looks at his history and record during confirmation hearings next year.”   

Following Piper, representatives from LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and the Cato Institute—“massive, massive privacy concerns” – each discussed what Attorney General Sessions could mean for criminal justice and civil liberties. 

As Piper writes in a blog post, it isn’t clear how state-legal marijuana businesses would be affected if Sessions wins confirmation:

“No one knows for sure what exactly to expect, but we should assume the worst. His administration, which looks set to be staffed by drug-war extremists, could go after state marijuana laws. Instead of just opposing sentencing reform, they could push for new mandatory minimums. They might demonize drugs and drug sellers to build support for mass deportations and a wall. Trump’s law-and-order rhetoric could fundamentally alter the political environment, nationally and locally.”

Piper adds:

“We need to pace ourselves, choose our battles carefully, be strategic, and perhaps most importantly, keep our morale up. We need to find ways of supporting each other…

“It’s especially important that we find ways to create division among Republicans, who now hold Congress and the White House. The more they disagree, the less they can get done. Two areas that stand out for us are marijuana and sentencing reform. We have enough Republican support on both these issues that we might be able to create dissent within the GOP if Trump tries to do something bad in these areas…

The rise of Trump and Trumpism has put a national spotlight on white supremacy and misogyny. Everywhere, people are now organizing against hate. Drug policy reformers should be part of that fight.
We can start by taking a hard look at our movement and the marijuana industry we have created. If groups draft legalization laws that  ignore racial justice, we need to call them out. If dispensaries, marijuana magazines or other marijuana businesses objectify and demean women to sell their products, or if they exclude people of color, we need to call them out. It is long past time to clean up our own house.”

The Christian Science Monitor tries to parse how or if AG Sessions will go after the industry. So does The Hill. “Pot policy in the U.S. is up in the air,” Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak tells the NYTimes.

Cannabis business lawyer Hilary Bricken shares her views at Above the Law. More from LAist, and Marijuana.com.

Pro-pot activist and journalist Tom Angell told Buzzfeed, “From a political lens, I think reversing course on [marijuana] and trying to shut down broadly popular state laws, that’s going to be a huge distraction from all the other things they care a lot more about,” Angell said. “It’s a fight that they don’t want to pick.”

To put this differently, unlike going after undocumented immigrants or Muslims, an attempt to crush the legal marijuana industry would likely have political consequences for a Republican administration.

If Sessions doesn't realize it already, he'll soon learn that gutting the REC and MED industry would require opposing state Legislatures in Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and going against the will of voters in states including Florida, Arkansas, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota. It would mean killing tens of thousands of jobs, and perhaps prosecuting White, media-savvy, cannabis executives, who can afford good lawyers. 

Trump did not make a return to prohibition central to his campaign -- his support for MED has been relatively consistent – and for a president who wants to win re-election, it’s hard to see much if any upside for him in a widespread crackdown. Given these uncertainties, there is a case for the industry to keep its head-down and hope President Trump has other priorities.

There is also a case for action.

In important respects, the marijuana industry is a marginalized community. But unlike other marginalized groups, marijuana is also a thriving industry, one expected to generate more than $6 billion in revenue this year. 

During the Obama years, the marijuana industry has obtained the resources and geographic scope to make the Sessions confirmation a fiercely contested battle, and perhaps even defeat him. To do so, Republican Senators, especially those from legal states, need to understand that a vote for Sessions will cast a long shadow over their political futures.

For more than two years, cannabis executives have been telling me that this industry isn’t just about getting high and getting rich, that it’s rooted in struggles for health and justice. The Sessions nomination is the test of that commitment. If industry leaders don’t fight when other groups –including those that include colleagues, friends and customers -- appear far more vulnerable, it’s hard to see how this industry stands for anything except its own enrichment. If the industry doesn't fight now, who will stand up for it if political realities shift and legal cannabis emerges as a primary target?

The cannabis industry is indebted to countless Americans whose lives have been ruined by the war on drugs. Honoring their sacrifice demands a full-throated, and generously-funded, campaign against the Sessions nomination. 

Correction: Last week I quoted anti-legalization activist Kevin Sabet that he was “strangely optimistic” after the election. As phrased, it implied that this quote came after the Sessions nomination. In fact, it came before. I regret the error.
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Politics

Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.), an industry supporter, believes Trump will leave legal states alone. The New York Times examines how California companies are adapting to the legal market.

In Maryland, Black lawmakers are furious that the state is moving forward to award dispensary licenses, despite outrage that none of the initial grow licenses were given to African-Americans.

Reason tracks the “ uneven course” of REC sales in Oregon. California may amend a tax rule favorable to MED consumers.

A few cities in south Florida have created a six-month moratorium on MED dispensaries. The new year could bring new vigor to the push for MED in Georgia.

Arkansas may delay its MED program. North Dakota too.

MED won a substantial victory in South Africa.

Business

Cannabis private equity firm Privateer Holdings, which has raised $122M, has its eye on overseas markets.

The Financial Times does a deep dive into how the alcohol industry thinks about cannabis.

The New York Times visits a Washington grow that’s experimenting with energy efficient lights. The world’s largest marijuana factory could be built in Alberta. USAToday explores the $25 billion business opportunity in California.

LAWeekly asks if cannabis is a better business for Native Americans than casinos. The paper also says cannabis marketing is getting “ classier.”

The Texas Standard explains the huge proposed jump in CBD-oil business fees.

More industry trade groups are sprouting.

Health and Science

Due to safety concerns, Denver’s new social use rule will not include bars and other establishments with liquor licenses. Bar owners are not happy.

The NYTImes asks whether insurers will pay for patients’ MED.

New York broadened its MED law. Utah is studying its very-limited MED program.

The Onion weighs in on the possibility that weed weakens heart muscles.

Criminal Justice

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has strengthened language confirming that marijuana users can’t buy guns.

The Inlander tells the story of Isaiah Wall, a teenaged police informant who ended up dead.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, recommended that all drugs should be decriminalized.

Cannabis should be legalized, according to an new report from the Adam Smith Institute, a U.K. think tank. It has the equivalent of bipartisan support.

In Scotland, a court accepted a man’s explanation that his £25,000 in plants are for personal consumption.

Air travelers out of Fairbanks, Alaska can keep their weed, the TSA confirmed.

Culture

A barely-clothed model was hired to serve as a charcuterie platter during an industry party in Las Vegas. A photograph of her covered in what looks like salami, prosciutto and other cold cuts sparked some outrage. (Robert Weakley, CEO of Altai Brands, took responsibility and apologized.) 

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After some tough decisions, I'm thrilled to introduce Carolyn Lipka:
    
Hi! My name is Carolyn Lipka and I’m a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. My work has been in Noisey, Interview and Paper Magazine. I’ve been a medical cannabis patient since moving to LA in 2014 and a recreational user since 2008; I’ve smoked it all from extremely dirt weed in the suburbs of New Jersey to Wifi OG from an upscale dispensary in Los Angeles. The comedy and cannabis community have significant overlap (from Getting Doug With High to Broad City) and I’m happy to continue the trend. My interests include any edible that features dark chocolate and a dense indica heavy hybrid. I love testing out new weed products and my proximity to a huge sector of the industry has afforded me the opportunity to really plunge into trying every vape, bong, grinder and elaborate dab blow torch I can get my hands on.  I graduated from Yale University in 2014 where I did extensive research on the cold war making me the world’s dorkiest weed critic.  Follow me on twitter for humor @clipka_, on instagram for selfies @clipka or snapchat for high thoughts @carolynlipka

Carolyn will be reviewing accessories and other lifestyle products that may appeal to WeedWeek readers. She will not review submitted cannabis products. 

Got anything you think Carolyn should try? Send it to:
 
Carolyn Lipka
WeedWeek
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Bye,

Alex 

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