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The fallout after Sessions’ anti-states’-rights posture on marijuana

(BUSINESS NEWS) What are politicians saying and how will cannabusinesses fare as US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions takes a hardline stance against marijuana use and sales.

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“What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” —Hamilton, “The World Was Wide Enough”

It’s not uncommon to see policies changed from one Presidential administration to another, as each tries to shape the nation, and, ultimately, their legacy, in the way that makes the most sense to them and their party. However, what is somewhat uncommon is to see a President tacitly approving a major shift in policy (and perhaps practice) that potentially negatively affects not only a growing business segment in multiple states, but also flies in the face of promises made on the campaign trail and angers members of his own party who see it as a rise in the overreach of federalism.

Late last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a memo regarding federal levels of action regarding marijuana issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department. The memo, which dated back to the Obama presidency, provided states with autonomy regarding the legalization of marijuana, and kept federal prosecutors at bay, for all but the most serious of marijuana-related crimes, such as drug trafficking across state lines or selling to minors. For a brief history of how marijuana legislation state-by-state came to be, check out a great overview at Vox.

Sessions, however, views marijuana as a gateway drug, the state legalization of which has not only flouted federal law, but also created a potential for higher rates of impaired driving, greater appeal to youth, as well as a black market for marijuana in states which neighbor those where marijuana is legal. Advocacy groups, such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana, join Sessions in his concern and welcome a potential return for marijuana to fall under federal enforcement.

While Sessions has taken the step of rescinding the prior guidance on the issue for federal prosecutors, there has yet to be a directive as to just how active enforcement on marijuana will be. While some say that the new direction will give prosecutors the ability to go after high profile cases that states are loath or unable to prosecute, others within the Justice Department point to a department strapped for resources, and highlight opioid abuse and human trafficking as remaining front and center on the minds of the prosecutors.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump promised that he would leave marijuana legislation in the hands of the states, a position that echoed with his Republican base.

Looking at the matter as a states’ rights issue, rather than a federal problem, providing states greater autonomy to appeal to their citizens/voters to solve their local problems removes federal overreach – a key campaign point of President Trump and platform point for the Republican Party.

Indeed, the sudden move by Sessions appears to have caught many key Republican politicians off guard, but ready to strike back. Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, promised to block appointments for key Justice Department positions until Sessions relents and restores the previous policy.

Don Young, a Republican Representative from Alaska, in speaking to the Associated Press, noted that the legalization of recreational marijuana sale had been approved by the voters from the individual states and they, as Congressmen, had a duty to act, saying, “Congress is the voice of the people and we have a duty to do what is right by the states.”

Coming on the first day that recreational marijuana was to be made legal for sale in California, Sessions’ shift had the effect of disrupting a growing business segment as well: Cannabusinesses and those industries that have grown to meet their needs, such as bankers and security forces.

What to do with the proceeds from cannabusiness has always been a slippery argument. Banking, which is regulated by both the states as well as the federal government, has had no assurances that federal enforcement of banks and credit unions which accept funds from the sale of marijuana would be exempt from prosecution.

Indeed, industry giants such as Wells Fargo, which had initially tried to get a large portion of the market share have pulled out completely, leaving smaller firms, such as Colorado’s Safe Harbor Private Banking, to bear the burden and potential for prosecution for crimes ranging from money laundering to racketeering. On the heels of Sessions’ announcement, cannabusiness stocks slipped sharply as well.

As the Trump presidency finds its legacy forward, balancing between states’ rights, law and order, and the best use of federal resources, it should consider the fruits that previous Prohibitions have borne.

Making alcohol illegal in the United States from 1920-1933 had the net effect of increasing the reach of organized crime and the spread of bathtub gin. The war on drugs in America, including on marijuana since 1937, has had similar results: a large amount of money spent to negligible gain.

The National Review points out that police departments nationwide made nearly 575,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2105 alone(nearly 70,000 more than for all categories of violent crime combined). In combating the effects of foreign drug cartels, they note the work of a Mexican think tank who estimated that legalization of marijuana nationwide in the United States would have the effect of crippling the Mexican drug cartels financially, reducing their intake by $1.6 billion (or 80 percent) annually.

For today, however, there is no talk of decriminalization, much less legalization nationwide, and the states whose voters approved the legal sale of marijuana in their borders are somewhat in limbo. Despite the uncertainty, there is a spirit of optimism that the status quo won’t change as much, and that the move was designed to reflect posturing on the part of the Sessions-led Justice Department.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, whose state was one of the first to legalize marijuana in 2012, said that things would go on as usual, stating that “[w]e should, in my book, not push the panic button on either …individual lives or …businesses.”

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. TheSophist

    January 9, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Silly post. Neither the Attorney General nor his boss the President make laws. Hence, they can’t make marijuana legal or not legal. Congress does that. That various Republican congresscritters are now talking about legalizing pot is precisely the way it’s supposed to work.

    I prefer if the Executive Branch doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws it will and won’t enforce, and the legislature is forced to make and repeal laws that the people want and do not want. YMMV.

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Business News

Etsy is trying on second-hand fashion with purchase of Depop

(BUSINESS NEWS) With the younger generation moving away from fast fashion, it makes sense that Etsy has acquired one of the most popular Gen Z second hand apps.

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Woman looking at a rack of clothes in a second hand thrift store

Over the last few years, sustainable shopping has been a bullet point in the large-scale topic of the environment. Burning through clothing by disposing of old clothing and shopping from places specializing in “fast fashion” is causing damage to the earth.

According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

As a result, shopping second hand has become more popular, as opposed to mass-produced fast fashion. Online platforms like Poshmark and ThredUp have grown tremendously over the last 3 to 5 years.

Now, Etsy is getting in on the resale action through its acquisition of Depop – a second hand fashion app that allows for the buying and selling of used fashion items.

Etsy paid $1.6 billion to acquire the UK-founded company, which has attracted a younger, Gen Z-based audience due to its social media use and messaging on shopping in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the company was “thrilled” to be adding what it believes to be the “resale home for Gen Z consumers” to Etsy. Depop has approximately 30 million registered users spanning 150 countries.

“Depop is a vibrant, two-sided marketplace with a passionate community, a highly-differentiated offering of unique items, and we believe significant potential to further scale,” Silverman said in a statement Wednesday.

“We see significant opportunities for shared expertise and growth synergies across what will now be a tremendous ‘house of brands’ portfolio of individually distinct, and very special, ecommerce brands.”

Due to the COVID-related e-commerce boom, shares of Etsy have more than doubled in the last year. The stock was up about 6.7% Wednesday afternoon.

According to data from Crunchbase, Depop had raised a total of $105.6 million from investors including General Atlantic, Creandum, Balderton Capital, Octopus Ventures and Klarna CEO and co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski, prior to their agreement with Etsy.

With fashion being so cyclical, it may be safe to say that second hand will never fully go out of style.

What are your thoughts on resale apps being the answer to fast fashion woes? Let us know in the comments.

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As masks become optional, businesses find themselves stuck in the middle

(BUSINESS NEWS) One liquor store’s decision on mask policy following changes in local laws has become a recurring story throughout the nation.

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Woman in front of small business with two children, all wearing face masks

The American mask debate has comprised a whirlwind of clashing political ideologies, legal dilemmas, and personal agendas, with businesses placed directly in the middle of the storm. As the pandemic continues to run its course, a disparity in state mandates and legislation is only serving to increase the strain on these establishments.

With increased access to vaccines and several states rolling back their COVID guidance, the option to wear—or not wear—masks is becoming more discretionary, with businesses often having the final say in whether or not they expect masks to be used on their premises. One such business, a liquor store, posted a notice regarding their staff’s decision to continue wearing masks:

“In accordance with Johnson County mandates: Masks are now optional. Please do not berate, verbally assault, or otherwise attack the staff over their choice to continue wearing masks.”

The notice went on to say, “It is painfully depressing we have to make this request.”

That last line epitomizes many business owners’ stances. Places across the country have started allowing customers to discard their masks with proof of vaccination, but if employees choose to keep their masks for the time being, it’s difficult for clients not to view it as a kind of political statement—despite their decisions often being corroborated by local laws.

And, as long as businesses continue to operate within the confines of those laws, their decisions should be free from public scrutiny.

Sadly, that’s not what’s happening as evidenced by the notice posted by the liquor store in Johnson County. The same disparity that allows for some freedom despite COVID still being present in many Americans’ lives often leaves those who choose not to wear masks to conclude that those who do wear them are being judgmental or unnecessarily cautious.

Those judgements work in reverse as well, with businesses who allow their employees to work maskless facing criticism from masked clients. It seems that the freedom to choose—something for which people strongly advocated throughout the pandemic—continues to cause separation.

As businesses change or adapt their regulations to fit state mandates and employee (and customer) concerns, everyone would do well to remember that the decisions these establishments make are usually meant to affect some kind of positive work environment—not to welcome harassment and abuse.

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Business News

You should apply to be on a board – why and how

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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