Over the last eight years, the federal government’s approach to marijuana prosecution and civil action evolved. Although it was never within President Obama’s power to legalize the drug nationally himself, he oversaw a Department of Justice that was initially dogged in its pursuit of marijuana entrepreneurs, and later much more relaxed. Still, the drug remains illegal under federal law. A provision of a federal spending measure passed in 2014 sapped the funds of federal prosecutions of medical marijuana operations complying with state law. However, this election raised a host of new questions about the protection that medical marijuana and now recreational marijuana would receive under the new administration.
Election night turned out to be a clear success for the support of medical and recreational marijuana legalization. California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine legalized recreational use. Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota approved medical marijuana initiatives.
So now the question is, what type of approach will the Trump administration take? It’s a major question because, while Obama took a hands-off approach and we knew Clinton was expected to do the same, there is uncertainty about Trump’s stance.
There is some reason to be optimistic. Earlier this year, a writer for Merry Jane pointed out that Trump has long been critical of the failed War on Drugs. In 1990, he went on record with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to say that drug enforcement was a “joke” and that drugs should all be legalized in order to siphon profits away from drug czars. Tax revenues from legal drug trade, he said at the time, could be used to help educate the public on drug dangers. That stance was pretty ahead of its time.
Trump has also been a strong proponent of walling off Mexico, in large part due to the violence of the drug trade, as perpetuated by various gangs and cartels. He has said the only way to truly win the War on Drugs is to legalize drugs.
However, it’s worth it to point out that he is something of a chameleon when it comes to his political positions. He used to be pro-choice, remember? More recently, he has said women who have abortions should in some way be punished. Plus, we know that the politicians he is surrounding himself with are very conservative. Rudy Giuliani, who is being considered for the attorney general position, is strongly against the legalization of cannabis and has long been for the War on Drugs. So perhaps it should not come as a surprise that in a GQ interview last November, Trump indicated that medical marijuana is “absolutely fine,” but suggested we may need to hold back when it comes to legalizing the drug for recreation. That question, he said, should be left to the states.
On the other hand, we know politicians regularly pander to their base in order to garner votes. Long before Trump was a Republican, he defined himself as “more of a Democrat.” So could he swing back to a more liberal stance now that he actually has the job he was vying for?
It’s tough to say.
Certainly, our cannabis lawyers know the revenue the federal government might take in from legal marijuana would be attractive, especially because he’s hoping to slash taxes. We’re all waiting anxiously to see how this unfolds.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
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