Trump’s Comments on Medical Cannabis Rider Raise Eyebrows

On Dec. 20, President Donald Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending package. The gargantuan bill contains a provision that protects medical marijuana-legal states from enforcement actions by the Justice Department. But it’s not entirely clear whether the U.S. attorney intends to abide by it.

“Division B, section 531 of the Act provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds made available under this Act to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories,” President Trump wrote in his signing statement. “My Administration will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”

That remark had some in the cannabis community abuzz.

“Although the vague language doesn’t directly say he plans to ignore Congress’s will to block Justice Department prosecution of medical cannabis patients and providers, presidents typically use signing statements such as this one to flag provisions of laws they are enacting which they believe could impede on their executive authorities,” wrote Tom Angell at Forbes. “By calling out the medical marijuana rider, Trump is making clear that his administration believes it can broadly enforce federal drug laws against people complying with state medical marijuana laws even though Congress told him not to.” 

Should states worry? Probably not. As Angell notes, Trump’s Justice Department has declined to go after states over marijuana so far. And this isn’t the first time the president has expressed his right to ignore such provisions.

This may be more of a power play than anything else: I reserve the right to go after you, but I won’t.

It just underscores the need for uniformity and clarity at the federal level.