Trump takes aim at recreational cannabis
Submitted by: R.E. Graswich
President Donald Trump’s indifferent attitude about recreational cannabis is history.
In another indication that Trump and California are on a collision course, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration was preparing to enforce federal laws against adult-use marijuana.
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said Thursday, February 23, in Washington. He noted the specifics would be left to the Department of Justice.
California is one of eight states to have legalized small amounts of the drug for adults without a doctor’s recommendation, but is the nation’s biggest retail market and largest wholesale producer of cannabis.
Federal law makes no distinction between medical and recreational cannabis use. Both are considered illegal under the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana is included among the most dangerous narcotics and categorized as a Schedule I drug by the federal government.
Spicer suggested federal enforcement authorities would make allowances for medical cannabis, saying Trump believes people who suffer from various diseases find “comfort” with medically recommended doses of marijuana. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said he was not opposed to letting states regulate medical cannabis.
But recreational cannabis is apparently another story for Trump, who took no specific position on adult-use while running for office. And Trump’s appointed U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, made negative comments about cannabis while serving as U.S. Senator from Alabama.
During his conformation hearings, Session danced around questions concerning cannabis. He said, “Using good judgment about how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine. I know it won’t be an easy decision, but I will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”
Early in the administration of President Barack Obama, the Justice Department cracked down on medical cannabis, threatening to prosecute landlords who rented space to medical marijuana dispensaries. Under pressure from states, the agency reconsidered and announced it would not pursue growers and sellers who operated under regulations established by state and local authorities.
In California, where voters rejected Trump last November by more than 3 million votes, political leaders have said they would oppose Trump on multiple issues, starting with immigration. Gov. Jerry Brown joked about building a wall that would effectively allow California to quit the U.S. while Trump was president.
The state’s economy stands to lose thousands of jobs and billions of dollars under a federal cannabis crackdown. The state has approximately 50,000 cannabis growers, with an estimated 200,000 people employed by the industry. Sales have been estimated at $7 billion in California.
The state has allowed medical marijuana since 1996, though comprehensive statewide medical cannabis regulations were only approved by the State Legislature in 2015.
Last year, voters added recreational cannabis to the mix, approving Prop. 64 to allow adult use. The state is currently trying to organize its regulatory system for both medical and recreational cannabis, and has established Jan. 1, 2018, as a deadline for issuing licenses for growing, testing, manufacturing, distributing, delivery and retail sales.