Is Legal Marijuana Really At Risk Under Trump?
March 29th, 2018
With recreational and medicinal marijuana becoming increasingly legal across the United States, it’s certainly an exciting time for both cannabis investors and enthusiasts. But before making any moves in this industry, it’s important to be aware of the associated risks, many of which come from the Trump administration’s stance on marijuana reform.
Trump’s Early Stance on Marijuana
It’s no secret that President Trump’s opinions are wavering and volatile on most matters, and cannabis is no exception. During his campaign for presidency, Trump stated clearly that he was “in favor of medical marijuana 100 percent” and that marijuana policy, in general, should be left up to the states without federal interference.
In February of 2017, one month after Trump became president, former White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer, told reporters that medical use marijuana wasn’t a concern for the administration. Spicer said, “the president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.” However, according to Spicer, recreational marijuana is “a very, very different subject” and “greater enforcement” of federal cannabis laws could be on the horizon.
The fact that Trump seemingly broke his campaign promise to keep federal hands out of state marijuana policies is likely largely influenced by his appointment of Jeff Sessions to attorney general.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Vehement Marijuana Opposition
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is notorious for having an ignorant view on marijuana, going so far as to say, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” And when referring to racist hate group, the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions has said, “I thought those guys were okay until I learned they smoked pot.”
Since becoming the head of the Department of Justice, Sessions is living up to his reputation. Earlier this year, he led the charge in rescinding the Cole memo, a directive that was put in place by the Obama Administration advising federal prosecutors not to pursue cases against marijuana businesses that were operating in legal cannabis states.
That being said, like many of Trump’s appointments, Sessions role as attorney general could be in jeopardy. After Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Trump’s potential collusion with Russia, Trump said, “So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself… How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, But I can’t, you know. I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”
Since then, tensions between Sessions and Trump are well documented, including many insulting tweets from the president directed at the attorney general as well as reported threats by Sessions to resign numerous times.
Trump Administration’s Lack of Evidence-Based Marijuana Policy
Even if Sessions is to be removed from his role as attorney general, advocates of marijuana reform should be wary of the lack of evidence-based marijuana policymaking in the Trump Administration. Despite Trump being vocal about wanting to tackle the current opioid addiction crisis in the country, he and his administration seem to have little understanding of how to do so.
Increasing research suggests that marijuana is a healthier and less addictive alternative to pain management than opioids, and there are lower rates of fatal opioid overdose in states where medical marijuana is legal. However, the Trump administration seems to have an opposing view to clinical research, with Sean Spicer once linking marijuana legalization to the opioid crisis—a statement that is entirely unfounded and, in fact, the inverse of what current research suggests.
Recent Good News About Marijuana Reform
Even though Trump and his appointees haven’t done much, if anything, to move marijuana reform forward, there’s still plenty of hope for both marijuana investors and enthusiasts.
First, there’s the fact that Americans as a whole are increasingly in support of marijuana legalization. According to Pew Research, 61% of Americans believe cannabis should be legalized, a number that’s been on a steady increase over the past decade and up from 31% in 2000. That number is certainly large enough for members of Congress to pay attention if they’re hoping for reelection.
Even better, on March 23rd of this year, Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending measure that renews protections for medical marijuana providers and patients. The passage of this bill means that the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer provision is still in effect. Rohrabacher-Blumenauer prohibits the use of federal funds to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Many marijuana advocates feared that this provision would expire under the Trump administration, so its renewal is encouraging.
Like most issues, Trump’s stance on marijuana reform is unclear and continuously changing, but the people he’s appointed to office, namely Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are vehemently opposed to marijuana legalization. However, proponents of legalization can find solace in the fact that the majority of Americans are in favor of legalization and recent moves by Congress indicate that there’s no immediate threat to legal medical marijuana at this time.
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