We’ve waited anxiously for some clear sign from the Trump Administration as to their direction on marijuana regulation in the United States. As is typical for Trump, his message seems to shift depending on the audience he’s speaking to. During a Reno, Nevada campaign stop in 2015, for example, he said, “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.” But then on Bill O’Reilly’s show in February of 2016 he said, “I would really want to think about that one, Bill. Because in some ways I think it’s good and in other ways it’s bad. I do want to see what the medical effects are. I have to see what the medical effects are and, by the way — medical marijuana, medical? I’m in favor of it a hundred percent. But what you are talking about, perhaps not. It’s causing a lot of problems out there.”
So that’s why today’s announcement during Sean Spicer’s press briefing is particularly revealing. In response to the question: “What’s gonna be the Trump administration’s position on marijuana legalization where it’s in state/federal conflict like this?” Spicer replied:
There’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of . . . the medical . . . when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature. So I think there’s a big difference between medical marijuana which states have a . . . the states where it’s allowed in accordance with the appropriations rider have set forth a process to administer and regulate that usage versus recreational marijuana. That’s a very, very different subject.
It appears that, according to Trump, medical marijuana is OK, but recreational pot use is not. He actually trots out the long-discredited “gateway drug” concept by equating recreational pot use to the the heroin epidemic. Never mind the recent studies showing that states providing access to marijuana showed a significant decrease in prescription opioid use (Bradford and Bradford, July, 2016) . . . in Trumpland, facts can be alternative.
This pronouncement has to have sent seismic waves through the burgeoning marijuana industry across the country. In Colorado, from 2014 to 2015, legal pot sales grew 42%; from 2015 to 2016, that figure was still 30%, hitting over $1 billion in sales for the first time since legalization of medical marijuana in 2000. Investment in marijuana growing operations is intense, with grow space going for premium prices across the state. And yet, because of existing federal laws prohibiting the sale of marijuana, retail pot shops cannot even deposit their cash in a bank, making them prime targets for crime. Industry leaders and potential investors were hoping that new leadership at the federal level would result in positive changes to banking and sales regulations . . . but those hopes have to be dashed at this point.
Lost in all of this is – as usual – the will of the people. A recent Gallup poll shows 60% of Americans supporting the legalization of pot – the highest figure in the 47-year history of the question. Further, the support has increased in every single age group, with the highest change coming in the 18-34 yr. old age group, but even the oldest age group has seen its support double over the years.
And just today, a Quinnipiac poll shows a whopping 71 percent of Americans oppose federal intervention in states that have legalized pot.
Going after pot could be another huge misstep for the Trump Administration. But when has that ever stopped them?