Several sources speculated on a Trump legal cannabis crackdown before the US elections. Now, it seems that at least some of these fears are to become a reality.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that the Department of Justice would be cracking down on sales of recreational pot in line with federal legislation. The cannabis industry and US states with recreational cannabis laws are up in arms. The medical marijuana community is also worried.
Obama’s “hands-off” policy dumped
Although Federal laws prohibiting marijuana use are still in place, the Obama Administration allowed states to determine their own marijuana policies. With voter approval, Colorado, California, Alaska, Nevada, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington and the District of Columbia all approved recreational cannabis use. Voters cast the most recent “yes” votes during the presidential election.
Now the Trump legal cannabis crackdown seems set to spark a war of words and conflicting enforcement strategies on the part of Federal and local law-enforcement agencies. The budding cannabis industry is in a state of shock.
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Trump legal cannabis crackdown: fears for medical marijuana’s future
Although Spicer highlighted the Federal government’s recognition of the difference between recreational and medical marijuana, assuring the press that only recreational use would be targeted, the move sparks fears for the future of medical marijuana too.
According to Federal legislation, marijuana is illegal. Period.
If Federal law is to be enforced, it could be only a matter of time before law enforcement extends to dispensaries and their patients. The FDA does not recognize the medical use of marijuana, and the Department of Justice is ultimately likely to take the same line.
Spicer made no promises, saying that Federal government would be “looking into” medical marijuana. He added that the administration understands that medical cannabis offers relief to certain people, particularly those suffering from terminal illnesses. For now, medical marijuana seems safe.
State leadership won’t give up without a fight
Responding to Spicer’s announcement, state governors have vowed to stick to their guns. Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said that Federal government would be making “a really big mistake” if it tried to act against states allowing legal marijuana.
Voters will also be up in arms. Studies have shown a majority of American citizens being in favor of legal cannabis. The Trump legal cannabis crackdown won’t be popular. Clearly, not all cannabis supporters are likely to be Democrats, so the Republican support base will suffer a massive blow.
Even those who are not in favor of cannabis are likely to protest. 71 percent of voters say that states should make their own decisions about legal cannabis. A huge wave of protest seems likely if Trump’s administration moves ahead with cannabis law enforcement, and state governments will see it as an attack on their legislative independence.
Spicer cites opioid crisis as reason for decision
In a twist that is sure to provoke further criticism, Spicer equated marijuana legalization to the opioid crisis. He says that the administration doesn’t want to “encourage people.” Ironically, the opioid crisis is linked to its medicinal use to a greater degree than recreational use.
States with medical marijuana programs have seen a reduction in opioid use, a factor that has led to staunch opposition to medical marijuana on the part of the pharmaceutical industry. Furthermore, opioids have been responsible for thousands of fatalities, while marijuana use is not linked to premature death. In addition, the FDA itself admits that there’s no scientific evidence for the “gateway drug” theory.
Is Sessions behind the announcement?
Trump was relatively reticent about marijuana use during his campaign. His only comment was “medical is good.” Most people didn’t see this as inferred disapproval of recreational marijuana. However, Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States has never made his opposition to marijuana in any form a secret.
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he said in 2016. He urged “grown-ups” to take control of the situation in the Washington administration. Sessions is now that Washington “grown up.” It’s unlikely that he has softened his stance.
What happens next?
As we’ve seen, the states affected by the decision won’t accept it without strong opposition. This goes beyond the fact of recreational marijuana legalization and extends into the principle of self-governance in US states. Thus, even states not in favor of recreational cannabis seem likely to lend their support.
Public uproar is inevitable. Protestors will hit the streets as they have on multiple occasions since Trump’s inauguration. Will this move be even more unpopular than the notorious immigration ban? It seems very likely.
Is the Trump legal cannabis crackdown just “saber rattling” as one marijuana industry insider termed it? With much to prove and a documented dislike of any opposition, the Trump administration may go ahead despite strong protest from all quarters. The world will watch as the drama unfolds.