SAN FRANCISCO — Oakland marijuana businesswoman Debby Goldsberry — a pot activist for decades whom High Times once named "Freedom Fighter of the Year" — had planned an election night filled with joy.
But as President-elect Donald Trump surged in battleground states, her mood turned, even though California was in the midst of legalizing cannabis. And now, a week and a half after voters' passage of Proposition 64, Goldsberry said she has "not had one iota of joy about this whole situation."
"I'm so scared. It's awful," she said. "We're just concerned the (Drug Enforcement Administration) is going to be sent back into California to start busting heads again."
America's multibillion-dollar cannabis industry is balancing massive uncertainty about the policies of a Trump Administration with cautious optimism the president-elect will keep his promises to allow the state-level medical and recreational pot trades to exist. That optimism, though, faded Friday when Sen. Jeff Sessions, a marijuana opponent, emerged as Trump's nominee for attorney general.
"Sessions would be, as far as I can tell, a nightmare on marijuana and all other drug policy," said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading drug-law reform group.
Anti-marijuana activist Kevin Sabet, director of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, was buoyed by the news, which offered him hope after four states legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over.
Right now, the chances of marijuana legalization being tolerated on the federal level have fallen from the sky," Sabet said. "It makes the loss in California feel like it took place a million years ago."
Marijuana remains a federally illegal, Schedule 1 drug that the U.S. government considers as dangerous as heroin or LSD. In 2015, police made roughly 570,000 marijuana-related arrests, according to FBI data.
Trump said during his campaign that medical and adult-use cannabis laws were states' rights issues that he and his subordinates would respect. Now, industry players wonder if Trump will keep his word.
Erik Altieri, director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in an email that Sessions' nomination, "should send a chill down the spine of the majority of Americans who support marijuana law reform, and who respect the will of voters to enact regulatory alternatives to cannabis prohibition."
In Las Vegas this week, roughly 10,000 people attended the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, which has roughly doubled in size from last year. Feelings on the show floor ran the gamut, from fear to optimism, said Henry Wykowski, a cannabis attorney and former federal prosecutor.
"Some people are not concerned, others are very much concerned," he said.
At stake is a nascent, regulated industry that, according to estimates, provides tens of thousands of jobs and serves hundreds of thousands of patients and recreational users. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana, while 39 states have some form of law legitimizing medical marijuana. Retail sales of pot in California could hit $7.3 billion by 2020, analysts say.
Only two documents proscribe federal prosecutors in cannabis cases: a congressional law blocking the Department of Justice from interfering in state medical marijuana systems and a White House memo ordering prosecutors to ignore state-legal pot activity.
The law — the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment — could sunset Dec. 9. And a new Trump administration could tear up the White House's Cole Memo on Inauguration Day.
In a worst-case scenario, Sabet said prosecutors could target high-profile, state-legal pot operators for civil asset forfeiture, as they did in California beginning in 2011. Sessions could quickly dismantle state pot systems, too.
"What they can do is simply send letters to state regulators saying, 'You have 90 days to revoke licenses and close up shop,' and I think they will," Sabet said.
Some law enforcement groups that opposed legalization "are hoping for some sort of crackdown," said Nate Bradley, director of the California Cannabis Industry Association.
The best-case scenario for the industry, according to many players, is a continuance of the status quo, with the Trump administration allowing the legal cannabis sector to flourish, while focusing enforcement on international drug cartels, interstate traffickers and other bad actors violating both state and federal drug laws.
Bradley said that "several Republican Congressmen who have spoken to (Trump) personally have told me he has promised them he will recognize states' rights."
But Trump's selection of Sessions, who must be confirmed by the Senate, has raised new questions. In an April Senate hearing, Sessions said he was concerned the White House had sent the wrong message about a "dangerous" drug. He said that "good people don't smoke marijuana."
Nadelmann said the attorney general, as well as appointed U.S. attorneys who will head local offices around the country and federal judges, may have "a lot of latitude" to "make life miserable for this emerging industry."
Even so, it's unclear if Trump would spend political capital on an issue he never prioritized during the campaign, said Tom Angell, a Washington, D.C. activist and founder of Marijuana Majority.
According to some polls, more than 60 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, and more than 80 percent support medical marijuana. In the swing state of Florida, which Trump won, 71 percent of voters supported Amendment 2 to legalize medical pot use.
Sessions "isn't good news for marijuana reform," said Angell. But "I think the politics are such that it will be very difficult for people around the new president to convince him to walk back those pledges."
A pot crackdown would likely galvanize the industry, most democratic voters and about half of Republican voters, Angell said. "The political factors are aligned such that it'll be easier for (Trump) to make the right decision," he said.
So far, the election results have not appeared to deter new investment in pot ventures.
"There's this sense that the green rush train is pulling out of the station and if I don't get on it there might not be a seat for me," said Wykowski, the cannabis attorney.
Goldsberry said that while a Hillary Clinton presidency would have allowed the pot sector to "start slacking off" politically, Trump's election is a wake-up call "to remind us our work is far from done."
And in the short term, the pot shop owner has seen sales jump — especially for insomnia and anxiety-reducing "indica" flowers and edibles.
"Business has gone up," she said. "People are anxious and worried, and they're using more medical marijuana because of that."