Recreational marijuana seemed like an all-but-certain prospect just a few months ago. Certainly in California, the results of the November election helped to solidify the where its future would lie in The Golden State. But that same day came the unexpected election of Donald J. Trump, which in turn has meant uncertainty for the future of legal marijuana.
We do know the American public overwhelmingly supports legalizing recreational marijuana, and many lawmakers are eyeing it as a way to rake in millions of dollars in taxes that can be used for the greater good. As of today, we have a total of eight states – including California – that have legalized cannabis for recreational use. There was hope when Trump took office that, at the very least, Obama’s “hands-off” policy would continue, given Trump’s stated support for state’s rights. But then, he appointed Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to the post of U.S. Attorney General. Sessions has long been a vocal critic of recreational marijuana. On top of that, some in the Trump administration have warned that legal recreational marijuana could be the target of federal enforcement action, as the drug still remains outlawed under federal statutes.
All of this has left us with a great deal of uncertainty moving forward. It’s really not clear to marijuana businesses or even our marijuana lawyers what move the federal government and legislators may take next. While Republicans tend to be less favorable toward recreational marijuana on the whole, the issue is not split solely down party lines and a lot of Republicans support it.
The marijuana movement began in California some 20 years ago. Back in 1996, voters in California overwhelmingly passed Proposition 215, which was the start of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. Since that time, 27 other states plus the District of Colombia have approved widely varying laws that legalize marijuana as medicine.
Despite the federal government’s stubborn classification of the drug as a Schedule I narcotic, there is ample evidence that marijuana can be of great medicinal value. A report released earlier this year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine revealed substantial and conclusive proof that marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and nausea induced by chemotherapy.
Congress did pass a bill three years ago that prohibits the Department of Justice from using public money to pursue state-regulated medical marijuana programs – and that provision is still in place. However, what is not protected is recreational use and sales.
As of right now, eight states – including California – have legalized the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana for people over 21. Those states with programs up-and-running are bringing in big dollars as a result. For example in Washington State, officials reported net profits of $256 million.
Trump likes big business and he’s not a fan of regulation. He said prior to the election he personally views it as a matter for the states to decide. But his attorney general despises marijuana, and has even called into question the morality of anyone who uses it. His White House Press Secretary compared marijuana users to opioid addicts.
So now, a number of state leaders are asking the government for further guidance on the issue. As of right now, most banks still won’t work with marijuana businesses, for fear of being accused of money laundering. Meanwhile, there are still more states that are hoping to legalize marijuana. What that will look like and the ultimate success of marijuana businesses involved will depend on how this administration decides to proceed.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
What is the future of recreational marijuana in Trump’s America? March 7, 2017, By Kurtis Lee, The Los Angeles Times
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Report: Most Banks Still Reticent About Reefer, Feb. 26, 2017, Marijuana Lawyer Blog