New Frontier Data

The Week That Was: Removal of Pete, Jeff Sessions Seen as Boons for Cannabis

By J.J. McCoy, Senior Managing Editor, New Frontier Data

On consecutive days last week, Texas voters and President Trump effectively eliminated two of the legalized cannabis industry’s most significant political opponents, and advocates and investors took notice. In Tuesday’s elections, Democratic challenger and former NFL player and civil rights attorney Colin Allred upset 22-year incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions (R) to represent Texas’ 32nd District. Being the powerful chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions refused to advance any pro-cannabis bills, stymying both new legislation and roll-backs through amendments.

On Wednesday, post-election headlines were overshadowed by news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions (no relation) was resigning at the president’s request. Though most of the immediate buzz revolved around implications for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, cannabis-related stocks surged in the final hours of trading on Wall Street.

Between the two stories, the latter seemed to carry more weight. Most political pundits expected the Democratic Party to regain majority of the House (for the first time since 2010). Thus, Pete Sessions’ loss of his committee chairmanship was a foregone conclusion. The news about the attorney general marks further potential for change.

As noted by Bob Hoban, managing partner of the Denver-based Hoban Law Group (and an adviser to New Frontier Data), “Jeff Sessions has been no friend to the cannabis Industry. And far more concerning was his rejection of social and scientific data regarding cannabis. Yet Sessions never took formal enforcement action against the cannabis industry. A journey through modern politics takes many twists and turns, and what’s most important is that the industry is able to effectuate an open dialogue with the federal government. Hopefully, our new U.S. Attorney is receptive to this dialogue.”

Election Day also saw three more states pass legalization measures. Michigan is now the 10th state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize cannabis for adult use, while Missouri and Utah expand legal medical cannabis programs to 33 states (plus D.C.). As an off-year record number of absentee ballots is still being tabulated, the new Democratic House majority is trending to finish larger than it appeared on election night; that would seem favorable for further reform efforts.

“For the industry, this could be hugely consequential,” explains John Kagia, Chief Knowledge Officer for New Frontier Data. “A large liberal caucus means stronger advocacy for progressive issues, including criminal justice reform. Senators and representatives from three more states are joining the ever-expanding ‘cannabis caucus’. A Democratic House also likely means adult-use sales in D.C. in the next two years, where common use would be one of the industry’s most potent symbols of progress while introducing legalized adult use below the Mason-Dixon Line.”

More immediately, as he pointed out, “Michigan becomes a beachhead for legal cannabis in the upper Midwest, accelerating the legalization debate in that region. Missouri and Utah prove that medical cannabis can comfortably pass in deeply conservative states, and against the will of the state’s most influential institutions, like the Church of Latter-day Saints. Pick-ups for Democratic governorships mean that, for states which cannot hold ballot initiatives (Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico and Wisconsin), it is more likely that legislature-proposed legalization measures will get signed.”

Right now, all three states can expect an influx of new jobs. New Frontier Data’s updated total forecast for the U.S. legal market indicates that the nation’s current 259,000 legal plant-touching jobs will now expand to 642,000 (or 148%) by 2025. Assuming that the United States had full federal legalization like Canada, New Frontier Data estimates that there would be 698,000 jobs in 2018 (factoring in a residual 25% illicit market post-legalization). Total legalized plant-touching jobs would then increase to 1.05 million jobs by 2025.