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Cannabis Industry Cheers Sessions' Departure at DOJ

Leaders of the burgeoning cannabis industry on Wednesday applauded the departure of Attorney General Jeff Session from the Department of Justice, saying Sessions has hindered the growth of the billion-dollar industry.

Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, a cannabis-focused agriculture company, said in a press release that Sessions "has been an impediment to the growth of the regulated cannabis industry." He said the industry is right now at a tipping point nationally as far as voters and lawmakers are concerned. "With [Texas Senator] Pete Sessions being voted out and Jeff Sessions resigning, the corridor is now open to accelerate a states rights approach to regulating the cannabis industry.”

For the uninitiated, cannabis plants contain mind-altering THC, the ingredient that puts the buzz in marijuana, which is derived from the plant.

"We believe it's increasingly likely Congress could take action to regulate and tax cannabis at the federal level," Isaac Dietrich, CEO of MassRoots, said in an email.

Indeed, cannabis stocks rallied on Wednesday after the announcement that Sessions would be departing the DOJ.

Now that Sessions has resigned, Dietrich said he expects "the perceived risks related to the cannabis industry to continue to dissipate, which could lead to a shift of institutional capital and interest from Canadian licensed producers to companies focused on the regulated United States market."

And, in fact, marijuana proponents were elated that major cannabis ballot measures passed in Michigan and Missouri on Tuesday, indicating an increased acceptance of the drug. In Michigan, the approval of the ballot issue means that recreational cannabis will be legalized; Missourans voted to legalize medical marijuana. Michigan joins eight states and the District of Columbia in allowing recreational use; a host of other states allow medical marijuana.

Commenting on the trend to legalize marijuana, the FDA warned in January, "It is important to conduct medical research into the safety and effectiveness of marijuana products," which are not currently regulated by the FDA. The agency said that "adequate and well-controlled clinical trials" are needed to ensure its safety.

Sessions said at his confirmation hearing that he does not believe marijuana should be legalized. “We need grownups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is, in fact, a very real danger,” he said. If it is made legal, Sessions predicted, "You’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think, had we not talked about it.”

The Sessions-led Department of Justice issued guidance earlier this year making it easier for U.S. prosecutors to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized it. Sessions rescinded guidance by the Obama administration discouraging enforcement of the laws. In a press release announcing the directive, the DOJ said that Sessions "directs all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities." According to the DOJ, "This return to the rule of law is also a return of trust and local control to federal prosecutors who know where and how to deploy Justice Department resources most effectively to reduce violent crime, stem the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantle criminal gangs."