Trump Against Marijuana?
Trump Against Marijuana: What’s the Deal?
Why is Trump against marijuana? Has the time come for the cannabis community to panic? Or is the industry already too strong, widespread and important for even Trump and Co. to touch it?
Uncertainty has been the name of the game for the cannabis industry over recent weeks. The overhauled White House has given very little indication as to its long-term intentions for legal marijuana, leaving millions across the US in a rather unpleasant state of limbo. Pot proponents really didn’t want to see Trump installed in the first place, but such concerns paled in comparison to those regarding Mr. Jeff Sessions. His appointment to the position of Attorney General seemed like the worst-case scenario…and that’s exactly what played out.
In the interim, there’s been little to go on. Instead, it’s been a case of referring back to previous comments and rhetoric to determine possible outcomes. In the case of Sessions, this is the man who once stated that he’d happily see cannabis dealers executed. He also famously said that “good people don’t smoke cannabis” while adding that the KKK would be fine, if it wasn’t for the fact that they advocate cannabis use. Pretty creepy for the man with his finger on the Federal law button.
As for the idea of Trump against marijuana, he’s indicated on a number of occasions that he thinks the cannabis issue is one that can and therefore should be handled at a state level. This also formed part of his campaign to get into the White House in the first place – a pledge that it would continue to be left up to individual states to determine their own pot policies.
So why is the industry holding its collective breath right now?
Because going entirely against this, the White House announced late last week that under Trump’s reign, there will most likely be “greater enforcement” of anti-cannabis law at a Federal level.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer was speaking with reporters on Thursday, when he stated outright that the medical cannabis industry would not be touched by Federal cannabis law. However, he did state that this was partially due to the fact that Congress had banned the government from such action. Had it not, perhaps this side of the industry would be under threat too.
As for recreational cannabis, he made it abundantly clear that the two represent wholly different issues for the White House, stating that: “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement” of federal laws against the use (and presumably the distribution) of recreational marijuana.
Now, to the average bystander this doesn’t say a great deal at all. It could be seen as rhetoric, or perhaps an indication that the governments intends to clamp down on those who flout state-imposed cannabis rules, illegal smugglers, importers and so on. However, to those with a stake in the cannabis industry, it clearly conveys one severely disappointing message:
Cannabis is NOT going to be legalised at a Federal level.
This is hugely significant, as the one thing that’s standing in the way of the industry reaching its maximum potential now is Federal law. While cannabis remains illegal at a state level, major banks, lenders and investors in general will not go near the industry. Obtaining finance can be nightmarish, accountancy and recruitment are no picnic, those that do get involved don’t really know where they stand and there’s the ever-looming concern that accompanies knowing you are breaking Federal law.
Suffice to say, not exactly what the industry and its millions of supporters want to hear right now.
Despite having achieved meteoric growth and success over recent months, the industry has nonetheless been sitting on a knife’s edge, waiting and wondering what the Trump Administration has in store. Even though the appointment of Trump and Co. represented a hammer blow for the industry, most remained optimistic that he would, if nothing else, keep his promise of largely keeping out of the issue altogether.
If recent developments are anything to go by, this may not be the case. A potentially major shift in enforcement was indicated by Spicer, which indirectly gave the impression of an impending crackdown on recreational cannabis.
“There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”
Unsurprisingly, Spicer kept things as vague and non-committal as they’ve been to date, offering no information as to time-frames or other specifics. Technically speaking, every single person playing a role in the US cannabis industry, using or distributing cannabis in any way, shape or form is breaking Federal law and liable for prosecution.
This in turn means that an incalculable number of businesses spanning Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California are all up for potential prosecution, though to date the Justice Department has kept its distance from state-level cannabis policy.
“Now either the president is flip-flopping or his staff is, once again, speaking out of turn — either way these comments leave doubt and uncertainty for the marijuana industry, stifling job growth in my state,” commented Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder-area Democrat.
“The public has spoken on recreational marijuana, we’ve seen it work in Colorado, and now is the time to lift the federal prohibition.”
What’s becoming more than apparent is that should the Trump Administration choose to crack down on recreational cannabis, it will be going directly against the sentiments and wishes of the public. A recent study carried out by Quinnipiac University found that across the right states that have legalised recreational cannabis, a landslide 71% of the population opposes the idea of Federal law being enforced. In addition, an incredible 93% believe in the importance of medical cannabis legalisation. The Justice Department has made it impossible for the Fed to touch the medical cannabis industry at any level, but has so far imposed no such restrictions on recreational cannabis.
Speaking on behalf of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalisation campaign group, Tom Angell said that to enforce Federal cannabis law to any degree could have disastrous consequences for Trump’s already struggling approval ratings.
“If the administration is looking for ways to become less popular, cracking down on voter-approved marijuana laws would be a great way to do it,” he told reporters from USA Today.
“On the campaign trail, President Trump clearly and repeatedly pledged that he would leave decisions on cannabis policy to the states. With a clear and growing majority of the country now supporting legalization, reneging on his promises would be a political disaster and huge distraction from the rest of the president’s agenda.”
As far as cannabis proponents are concerned, the benefits of cannabis legalisation are clear, apparent and too significant to overlook. They argue that the popularity of recreational cannabis is such that to enforce Federal law would be counterproductive and nonsensical. Were recreational cannabis to once again be outlawed today, it would have no bearing whatsoever on the number of people choosing to use pot for recreational purposes. Instead, it would simply lead to the streets once again being flooded with illegal drug dealers, making a fortune selling low-grade cannabis and putting communities in jeopardy. It would lead to tens of thousands of job losses, rob the country of billions in tax revenues and make criminals of millions. Trump himself recently commented on “drugs as cheap as candy bars” on US streets due to illegal imports…an issue the criminalisation of cannabis is 100% guaranteed to further intensify.
“It is hard to imagine why anyone would want marijuana to be produced and sold by cartels and criminals rather than tightly regulated, taxpaying businesses,” commented Marijuana Policy Project spokesman, Mason Tvert.
Given the controversial decisions and actions taken by Trump and Co. so far, nothing is out of the question. But at the same time, experts remain largely convinced that what’s happening right now is simply a case of sabre rattling – a newly-installed government flexing its bureaucratic muscle to keep everyone on edge and let America know who’s in charge.
Realistically, the backlash of the Fed declaring war on cannabis would be too insane to comprehend. Every day sees the industry getting stronger, more people throwing their support behind it and communities all over the US reaping enormous benefits. We’re talking millions of people across the country and thousands of businesses, not to mention state senators and other officials who’d refuse to sit idly by and let progress be eroded. We’re not talking simple protests here, but rather vast swathes of the country rising up and refusing to cooperate. It’s unlikely that even Trump and his staff would have the audacity to go ahead and prosecute a sizable proportion of the entire country. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.
So while the bad news is that legalisation of cannabis at a Federal level seems well and truly off the cards, the likelihood of the plug being pulled on the entire industry is minimal to say the least.