By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pro-marijuana activists planning to light thousands of joints at Donald Trump's presidential inauguration in a call for national legalization of the drug fear a reversal of recent gains if his attorney general pick is confirmed in hearings beginning on Tuesday.
Trump's nominee, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has long condemned use of the drug, which has been legalized for recreational use in eight U.S. states and the District of Columbia but remains banned by federal law. Sessions has opposed attempts to legalize marijuana and reduce drug sentences
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Longtime Washington pro-marijuana activist Adam Eidinger, one of the organizers of the plan to distribute and light 4,200 joints during the Jan. 20 inauguration, said on Monday that protesters wearing T-shirts saying: "Great Americans Smoke Marijuana" would be in line for Sessions' hearing before dawn.
"This is political warfare. There is no respect in Washington for the marijuana movement or its business interest right now," Eidinger said in a telephone interview.
The demonstration will be among dozens of protests planned against Trump, a Republican real estate developer whose campaign promises included building a wall on the Mexican border and deporting millions of illegal immigrants.
Trump's transition team did not reply to a request for comment.
Eidinger said he and other activists and entrepreneurs feared Sessions could erase gains for legal marijuana across the United States.
"I don't want to go to jail. This a real thing for a lot of people," he said.
Members of his group plan to light the joints at four minutes and 20 seconds into Trump's inaugural speech if he has not backed the idea of national legalization. The date of April 20, or 4/20, corresponds with the figure widely recognized within the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all things marijuana.
Trump said during the election campaign that marijuana legalization was best left to the states. FBI figures show there were about 640,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2015.
In addition to the states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, 28 states have legalized use for medical purposes.
Taylor West, the deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group, said legal marijuana sales totaled nearly $7 billion last year, a figure projected to reach $20 billion in 2021.
"We are certainly watching the situation very closely," she said of the incoming administration.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)