The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Feb. 7 to advance the nomination of William Barr for U.S. Attorney General to the full Senate floor. The final vote was 12-10, with Republican committee members supporting Barr unanimously.
In a broader context, the nomination is being closely watched for its implications on special counsel Robert Mueller’s FBI investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign. (This is where the 10 committee Democrats voiced their objections to the nominations, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein arguing that certain opinions Barr has shared on the investigation’s trajectory should be “disqualifying.”)
For the cannabis industry, however, the news is being received with tempered optimism.
During his confirmation hearings, Barr told senators that he would not use his prosecutorial powers to go after cannabis businesses operating in state-legal environments. As Sen. Cory Booker pressed him, Barr said that he would not “upset settled expectations.”
Looking toward the future, Barr said that “the current situation is untenable and really has to be addressed.”
“It’s encouraging that William Barr has pledged to not go after cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws,” Sam D'Arcangelo, director of HeadCount's Cannabis Voter Project, told Cannabis Business Times. “However, pledges and memos don’t provide businesses or consumers the same peace of mind that legislation does. Now that the new Congress is in session, it looks like a bill that officially allows states to legalize cannabis could make it through the House if it were to actually receive a vote. But it remains to be seen if the House will make that kind of legislation a priority in 2019.”
A full Senate floor vote on Barr’s nomination is expected next week. By all accounts, his confirmation is likely.
“We are encouraged that Attorney General nominee William Barr said in confirmation hearings that he would ‘not go after’ marijuana companies in states where cannabis is legal,” Charles Finnie, MariMed Chief Strategy Officer, said. “Once in office, we hope he will review the growing body of evidence surrounding cannabis’ health and wellness benefits and take a fresh look at rescheduling cannabis, as well as ensure DOJ cannabis legislation articulates support of states’ rights regarding cannabis.”