Is the Maturing Pot Industry Too Big to Jail?

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The growing ranks of marijuana entrepreneurs could be headed for a showdown with the federal government, the Tribune Washington Bureau reports. The election of Donald Trump has shocked the marijuana industry into a state of high alert at a time it had planned to be gliding into unbridled growth. Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is a longtime field lieutenant in the war on drugs with unabashed hostility toward pot. It was only 10 months ago that Sessions was scolding a Senate hearing that the drug is dangerous, not funny and that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Now he is poised to set the direction on national drug enforcement policy at the same time that eight states, including California, have legalized recreational use of the drug. Some 60 million Americans live in states where voters have opted to allow any adult to be able to purchase marijuana.

Business leaders are betting the rapid maturity of the cannabis industry has made it too big to jail. Even before new laws permitted recreational use of pot in the massive markets of California and Massachusetts, the legitimate pot business dwarfed its 2011 size, when the Drug Enforcement Administration was aggressively raiding medical marijuana vendors operating legally under state laws. President Obama’s Justice Department decreed that states should have freedom to pursue their own policies. Those who have been in the business since the early days of medical marijuana caution that federal busts and seizures could quickly make a comeback. Sessions left that option open during his confirmation hearing. “There are people in this administration who will crush this industry if they see the opportunity,” said Steve DeAngelo of Oakland, Ca., considered a guru among pot entrepreneurs.

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