Trump – Cannabis Legalization
“Trump – Cannabis Legalization – in 2015, when running for president, Donald Trump was asked about Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana. “I think it’s bad,” he said at the time, “and I feel strongly about it.” However, he later modified his stance on marijuana, stating at a campaign rally that states should be allowed to legalize marijuana. And he has frequently expressed his support for the legalization of medical marijuana.
So far in his term, President Trump hasn’t been very clear about his intentions regarding marijuana legalization. His recent signing of a federal spending bill raised the question of what he’s really going to do about marijuana.
The spending bill Trump signed on Feb. 15 funds U.S. government operations through Sept. 30. And, like previous temporary spending bills, it included language that prevents the U.S. Department of Justice from using funds to interfere in states that have legalized medical marijuana. So the president is comfortable with keeping the DOJ out of the way, at least when it comes to medical marijuana, right? Not so fast.
In signing the bill, Trump highlighted the medical marijuana provision in the spending bill and stated that he “will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.” Marijuana in any form remains illegal at the federal level in the United States. Trump’s additional statement appears to reserve the right to enforce those laws even though the spending bill expressly prohibits using authorized funds to do so.
Notably, Trump didn’t use similar language when he signed the 2018 budget bill a year ago. At that time, Jeff Sessions was the U.S Attorney General. Only a few weeks earlier, Sessions had caused an uproar in the U.S. cannabis industry by issuing a memorandum that overturned Obama administration policies that had kept the DOJ from interfering in states that had legalized marijuana.
But under Sessions, the DOJ never took action against people or businesses that operated in states that had legalized marijuana. And Sessions is now gone, with his replacement, William Barr, agreeing to not interfere in states with legal marijuana markets despite his personal opposition to marijuana legalization.
The president has sent mixed signals in the past about marijuana and is still doing so. But what will he actually do?
During his nomination process, Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he wouldn’t target cannabis businesses that comply with individual states’ marijuana laws, and he put that pledge in writing. Now that he’s the Attorney General, it would be difficult for Barr to renege on his commitments. Trump’s advisors know that.
Trump himself agreed to a deal with Sen. Cory Gardner (R.-Colo.) last year to prevent the federal government from challenging Colorado’s marijuana laws. Gardner even said at the time that he had secured Trump’s pledge to support “a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
Such a legislative solution is working its way through the U.S. Congress now. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, sponsored by six Democrat senators and five Republican senators, including Gardner, is currently under Senate Judiciary Committee review. An identical bill has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, with 31 Democrat sponsors and 15 Republican sponsors.
With the 2020 presidential campaign beginning to heat up, marijuana legalization could become a key issue. Three senators who have already announced plans to run for president — Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.), Corey Booker (D.-N.J.), and Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn.) — are sponsoring the STATES Act. Other current and potential Democratic presidential candidates have also expressed their support for marijuana legalization.”