Here’s what Jeff Sessions as attorney general means for marijuana legalization

Despite a series of victories for marijuana legalization in eight states on election night last month and President-elect Donald Trump’s relative lenience regarding the drug, Trump’s recent cabinet appointments signal an uphill battle for legal weed in the years to come. While Tom Price, Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary, also has a history of opposing legalization of the drug, Trump’s appointment for attorney general poses perhaps the greatest threat to legal weed. Jeff Sessions vocally opposes marijuana, and his tenure as attorney general could have serious implications for a movement that once seemed to have so bright a future.

Anyone familiar with Sessions’ long history of racist comments, such as calling civil rights and racial justice organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP “un-American,” is aware that he once joked his only problem with the KKK was its use of weed. Sessions has additionally argued that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that weed was first popularized by African-American communities, and called weed a “very real danger” that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”

Sessions has hotly criticized Attorney General Loretta Lynch and President Obama for their support for reform of marijuana laws, and has additionally spread the blatant lie that marijuana legalization is “already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”

Statistics from states like Colorado overwhelmingly prove the economic benefits of marijuana legalization, from how tax dollars raised from the drug have been able to fund numerous public health and education initiatives, to the fact that marijuana legalization hasn’t magically inspired more people to smoke.

More than 65 million Americans now live in states where weed is recreationally legal, and roughly half of all Americans live in states where medical marijuana is legal, Politico notes. Upon becoming attorney general, Sessions will have the ability to arrest growers, retailers, and users of the drug, which has already become a thriving billion dollar industry and substantial source of job growth. It will be entirely within Sessions’ power to expand mass incarceration and condemn countless nonviolent users and dealers to lives as convicts mired in stigma.

While Sessions clearly has a vendetta against weed no matter the race of the individual using it, his hostility toward civil rights and racial justice certainly aren’t encouraging when you consider the racial implications of the War on Drugs. Rooted since its earliest days in persecuting and further marginalizing African-Americans, the drug war initiated by Nixon and built upon since every president since, has long entrapped people of color in the criminal justice system and cut them off from the social safety net. Even today, the War on Drugs has a pronounced, disproportionate effect on people of color, and given Sessions’ apparent disinclination to support civil rights, this trend is likely to continue.

On a slightly positive note, there is little Sessions will have the authority to do regarding marijuana as a matter of intra-state commerce, but the fact that he will have the sweeping authority to arrest anyone working with weed with the mere stroke of his pen is obviously unsettling.