Will Trump help California's new cannabis rules?
As California adults gave themselves an Election Day mandate to possess small amounts of recreational cannabis, a new question arose over Washington, D.C.
What will President Trump do about it?
The presidential election produced hardly a flicker of discussion about cannabis. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton preferred to focus on emails and sexist behavior. But that's not necessarily bad news for the marijuana industry.
Despite Trump's conservative platform and right-wing support, the president-elect seems open minded about cannabis.
In a campaign interview with Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly, Trump said he was "in favor of medical marijuana 100 percent." Trump also said individual states themselves were the best judges of whether to allow adult use, but noted Colorado has experienced a "real problem" since legalizing recreational cannabis. He wasn't specific about what that problem might be.
In short, Trump has minimal interest in the subject, which isn't likely to change once he moves into the White House in January.
As more states head toward cannabis regulation and away from prosecution, the president's attention could be critical in one respect: pushing cannabis off the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's Schedule 1 ban list, and turning marijuana into a pharmaceutical product.
An exit from Schedule I purgatory would end the cannabis industry's dangerous reliance on cash transactions and bring banking into the frame.
The arrival of banking privileges would be a huge step toward legitimizing the cannabis industry, and would reduce the violence that the underground economy attracts.
But making cannabis a Schedule II drug would not come without drama for the industry. While the second tier lacks the outlaw Schedule I status of heroin and peyote, the Schedule II grouping would place cannabis among OxyContin, Vicodin and similar drugs that can create dependence.
And while Schedule II status would open cannabis to comprehensive scientific research, it would also place the product squarely under the thumb of federal drug regulators. This could be excellent news for pharmaceutical companies and bad news for legacy growers and their patients and customers.
Trump's position on recreational cannabis is more straightforward -- essentially a continuation of the present rationalization under President Obama. If Trump meant what he said about adult use, he will allow the states to workout their marijuana regulations without interference from the federal government.
In California, that means a process that was already well underway before 56 percent of the electorate approved Prop. 64.
The recreational initiative will largely follow the regulatory framework established for medical cannabis by the State Legislature in 2015, with all commercial segments of the industry required to obtain local permits before they can receive state licenses.
Under current rules, the Feds look the other way while the states build their regulatory platforms.