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August 20, 2019

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Marijuana advocate sees Sessions’ ouster as a plus


Tom Brenner / The New York Times

Jeff Sessions, ousted recently from his job as attorney general by President Donald Trump, was consistently opposed to legalizing marijuana.

With Nevada’s marijuana industry flourishing, one of its greatest threats was eliminated this week when President Donald Trump forced the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions after nearly two years on the job, a leading Las Vegas pot advocate said.

It is hoped that Matthew G. Whitaker, a former football player for the University of Iowa and Sessions’ chief of staff since October 2017, will take a more progressive stance on marijuana as acting attorney general than Sessions, said Andrew Jolley, president of the Nevada Dispensary Association.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Jolley said.

Jolley, who manages The+Source Dispensaries in Las Vegas and Henderson, said Sessions’ view of the cannabis industry was “especially negative.”

Whitaker, who ran for U.S. Senate nomination in Iowa, said during a 2014 Republican primary debate he sympathized with patients who benefit from cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that has pain- and anxiety-relieving properties.

In the same debate, Whitaker said he disapproved of state efforts to legalize marijuana while the plant remains illegal under federal law.

Asked about the passage of a CBD-only medical cannabis law that year in Iowa, Whitaker said he supported the initiative.

“Families are going to be positively impacted by what happened in the state Senate,” he said. “And I applaud them for helping those families who need that help.”

Asked at the time whether Congress should legalize the plant, Whitaker said the federal legislative body “should regulate things that harm people,” like “hard drugs and the like.” Asked if marijuana fell in that category, Whitaker’s response was unclear.

“I saw the impact of marijuana on our border,” he said. “If you go to any of the counties in Texas where there’s an illegal importation of marijuana, there’s a tremendous amount of violence.”

Jolley said federal legalization of marijuana would reduce that type of violence.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to request for comment clarifying Whitaker’s position on marijuana.