Donald Trump’s rise to President of the United States took many people by surprise (and left others wishing they’d put money on it back in 2015). For some, his leadership raises a lot of questions and concerns, particularly given his controversial campaign statements. In regards to marijuana specifically, proponents are a bit nervous too; Trump has a reputation as a wild card, brash and wishy washy and prone to overreact. While he hasn’t overtly said what he’ll do with cannabis legislation (and, in truth, the whole of congress wields much more power than a single person), many are wondering what kind of trail he will blaze.
The Attorney General Factor
While Trump himself might not want the cannabis canned (or isn’t admitting to it, anyway), his nomination for attorney general has lovers of the leaf concerned.
Jeff Sessions, a senator from Alabama and Trump’s nominee, is adamantly against weed
According to KTLA 5, he said as much (from his high horse) during a Senate hearing back in April: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Sessions has a past mired with allegations of racism and bigotry. But people who love a plant, according to him, are the immoral ones. Sessions went on to claim, “We need grownups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger.” Of course, his nomination isn’t a guarantee of a seat: he must face a Senate confirmation hearing. Per Fortune Magazine, these hearings are likely to bring up the racial charges that prevented him from becoming a federal judge years back. They also made him synonymous with “black-voter intimidation” while Reagan was president. A number of political experts believe he faces a tough road to confirmation; others believe he is a shoe-in (meanwhile, nearly every single expert thought Clinton would win the presidency, so what the heck does anyone know?). If he is confirmed, he’ll have say in federal prosecutors’ use of their power (in terms of marijuana and other issues) and he’ll have influence over the Justice Department’s priorities.
While acceptance of marijuana has widely increased by citizens of our nation (and everywhere else), its existence (legally and as medicine) isn’t a guarantee. As of now, the 2013 legal memorandum issued by the Justice Department remains in effect; the feds basically adopted a non-interference with the states in regards to marijuana policy (as long as those states don’t interfere with other federal aims, like preventing the distribution of cannabis to those underage).
Yet, if Sessions has control, he can theoretically issue a new memo, one where “live and let live” isn’t at the heart of the policy
He could empower federal prosecutors to target cannabis once more as well, leaving everyone who uses it not only frightened but also wondering, “Doesn’t the government have anything better to do?”
What Donald Trump Says
Sessions is all but shouting his hatred for weed from the mountain tops, but Donald Trump is more subdued in his stance. Not that shockingly, he’s flip-flopped on the matter over the years. According to Business Insider, Trump’s most recent stance is that he supports a state’s right to choose how to legislate marijuana. He told the Washington Post, “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state. Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.” He doubled down on his support of medical marijuana in an interview with Bill O’Reilly telling him that he’s “in favor of medical marijuana 100%.” That’s something, at least. His position on recreational hasn’t been as open-minded. He’s called Colorado’s legal marijuana industry “a real problem.” As a Colorado native and someone who still lives here, I fail to see any sort of problem other than the ridiculous traffic from the number of people who have moved to the area – Legalize Everywhere! Make Commutes Great Again! This is a direct difference from the position he held decades back when he told The Miami Herald that the US needed to “legalize drugs to win the war on drugs.” Even so, people are allowed to change their minds, but with Trump it’s hard to gauge whether he’s speaking candidly or playing the role he believed he needed to play in order to win the election.
His future decisions are about as unpredictable as his hair
Mike Pence, the Vice President-elect, doesn’t appear as potentially progressive as Trump in regards to marijuana. He has repeatedly held strong to his belief that marijuana is a gateway drug, despite that pesky science proving him wrong. And he hails from Indiana, a state that’s pretty much refused to part with most of their outdated drug laws and punishments.
The People’s Nation
This election proved to be a marquee year for marijuana legalization: Massachusetts and Nevada legalized. California legalized too. This is of particular importance because The Golden State is often looked upon as the holy bong of legalization: many believe it will open the doors to nation-wide decriminalization. Whether Trump (or Sessions or whomever else) derails the progress pot has made remains to be seen: Trump’s campaign promised to do all sorts things but spoke limitedly about doing anything in regards to cannabis. America is an imperfect nation with a lot of issues, but marijuana isn’t one of these. Hopefully the important issues, like education and crime and poverty and healthcare and equality, take precedence over a plant. For most of us, the issue of weed is settled: the people have spoken. Time will tell whether or not President Trump has the ability to listen.