In case you've been living under a rock — or just glaze over at the mere mention of Russia — the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing last week for President Trump's attorney general nominee William Barr. While the vast majority of news coverage of the hearing focused on whether Barr would recuse himself from the Russia investigation and how he feels about special prosecutor Robert Mueller, Barr said some interesting things about cannabis.
For the civic novices among us, or those with incredibly short attention spans, the U.S. attorney general has a lot of sway over legal cannabis, an industry that netted $10.4 billion in domestic sales last year. After all, cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning the U.S. Department of Justice has the power to wreak havoc on the industry and the more than three dozen states that have legalized cannabis in some form by federally prosecuting folks acting legally under state law.
Barr's predecessor, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, set the industry into a tizzy last January when he rescinded a memo from the Obama administration's justice department directing U.S. attorneys not to prosecute cases involving cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state laws.
During his confirmation hearing, Barr — a notable drug war crusader in previous administrations — made clear that he, like Sessions before him, is no fan of the sticky-icky and supports blanket federal prohibition. But unlike Sessions, Barr pledged not to go after companies relying on the Obama-era memo for guidance or to "upset settled expectations" in the industry.
Further, Barr said it's "untenable" to continue under a system in which cannabis is federally prohibited but the Department of Justice simply looks the other way when it is permitted under state law. Congress simply needs to pass a law that defers to states on the issue or allow the DOJ to enforce federal laws as they are on the books.
"It's incumbent on Congress to make a decision," he testified.
The global elite are making their annual pilgrimage to the Swiss alpine town of Davos this week for the World Economic Forum and they have some new, hip friends with them. And they might be holding.
The Financial Post reported that a host of cannabis company executives and politicians-turned-weed-lobbyists are heading to the Swiss alps to attend a three-hour lunch at a restaurant accessible only by cable car that's being billed as Davos' first ever "Cannabis Conclave."
Those attending the three-course lunch will hear presentations from "leading cannabis executives and investors," including former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who now chairs the board for medical cannabis company InterCure, and Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., the Canada-based outfit billed as the world's largest cannabis company.
Cannabis' inclusion on the agenda of the annual get together of the richest, most powerful people in the world is obviously a big deal. It also should be taken for what it is: an instance of billionaires looking to expand investment portfolios in rapidly developing markets rather than some global recognition of the herb's power or revisiting the social injustices of prohibition.
Meanwhile, in the United States, where almost two-thirds of the population live in states where marijuana is legalized in some form, a major television network has rejected an offer of $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime to promote the drug's medical benefits.
CNN Business reports that CBS has refused to let Acreage Holdings buy a 30-second spot during this year's Super Bowl for an ad focused on how medical cannabis has helped patients cope with pain, including a child suffering from epileptic seizures. Acreage President George Allen told CNN the company developed the ad, which doesn't plug any of the company's products, "in the spirit of a public service announcement" because "it's our responsibility to advocate on behalf of our patients."
According the report, CBS has declined to comment publicly but has a policy against accepting any cannabis-related advertising.
View this how you like. But it seems very interesting that while global elites plot how to expand the international cannabis industry and bleed it for profits, America's largest television event — which is centered around watching young men inflict permanent brain damage on one another amid repeated displays of patriotism, militaristic might and unrestrained capitalism — has deemed cannabis still too taboo to talk about.
Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.