DOJ To Oppose Cannabis With ‘Greater Enforcement’
Susan Walsh / AP Photo
Brace yourself: tough times are coming. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that the Trump administration could take action against state-legal cannabis programs.
Spicer suggested ‘greater enforcement’ against cannabis and added that DOJ to decide what exactly it would be. He also emphasized a distinction between medical and recreational marijuana programs.
According to Politico, Spicer said that Trump “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.”
Recreational marijuana, in Spicer’s opinion, is a ‘very different subject.’ He noted that the nation is facing an opioid addiction crisis, and we should not encourage people to use marijuana. This statement goes against studies, which point out that cannabis is beneficial in fighting opioid addiction.
What Was The Reaction?
The newly formed Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers representing Colorado, Oregon, California, and Alaska, expressed their hope that ‘today’s comments do not reflect the views of the President and his administration.’
In their statement, members of group emphasized that more than 300 million Americans live in states with access to adult-use marijuana or some other form of medical cannabis. They also expressed their readiness to help the administration in crafting of more sensible marijuana policies and share valuable experience states have had during legalization.
Senators from Nevada and Washington have already stated that they are going to support and protect the will of voters against federal interference.
Why Does It Matter?
Stakeholders in the cannabis industry have been trying to figure out Trump’s stance regarding marijuana since the presidential campaign. Spicer’s statement is the first real sign that Trump’s administration is ready to crack down on the adult-use programs. Coupled with the appointment of Jeff Sessions as the US Attorney General, it darkens the prospects.
Cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. In this regard, the distinction made by Spencer could be linked to the existing federal provision known as the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment, which currently prohibits DOJ from going after state-compliant medical marijuana actors. The provision will expire in April. Also, there is no any other provision guarding adult-use programs.
The political reason for the distinction is quite clear. Recently released Quinnipiac poll showed that 71 percent of respondents opposed the government enforcing federal prohibition in states with legalized cannabis. According to Mark Malone, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, going after the legal marijuana industry would affect the overwhelming number of Americans who voted for approval. More, legalization ensures safety procedures and regulations, creates jobs and increases tax revenue. There is also evidence of the decrease in teen use.
During his campaign, Trump has stressed his frustration with the opioid crisis but been quiet on state-legal cannabis. Even if his stance remains unclear, keep in mind that he is surrounded by strong marijuana opposition. His current appointments also signal about the opposing path regarding cannabis.
So, if federal prosecutors would decide to go after legal cannabis programs, they have some options:
- Individual charges against businesses;
- An attack on the state laws by arguing that the federal Controlled Substances Act pre-empts them;
- Threaten to seize property from landlords who rent space to cannabis businesses.
The list is not definite. Even if individual medical patients would stay safe from charges, they remain at risk of impact due to the attack on state legal marijuana programs. However, the next Trump’s administration move would likely happen in April – when the Rohrabacher–Farr Act expires. Until then, stay tuned!
This article is based on this Leafly material.