President Donald Trump's Tuesday evening State of the Union was the drama-filled, made-for-TV address most all who tuned in expected, but it also left many marijuana proponents wondering if he truly understands his own drug policy or lack thereof.
“We will not quit until we have beaten the opioid epidemic once and for all,” Trump proclaimed to a packed room of rowdy supporters and skeptical Democrats alike. Lines like that made Democrats bristle outwardly – even as many Republicans bristled internally – not because they aren't fully behind ending the opioid epidemic, but because the president still seems to be missing the lowest hanging fruit in a battle to save some 60,000 to 70,000 lives annually: Cannabis.
“I think his speech was more of a campaign speech than it was a policy one,” bemoaned Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) to Wikileaf. The skepticism has been simmering for days now since audio surfaced of Trump telling Lev Parnas – the recently indicted friend of the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani – that cannabis “does cause an IQ problem. You lose IQ points.”
So while in Tuesday’s national address Trump highlighted handpicked regions of the nation that have witnessed declines in opioid overdoses, most Democrats could only think of the revelation that he belittles marijuana users, including those who get cannabis prescribed by their doctors and even veterans who risk losing their VA benefits for consuming the substance even in states that have legalized it for medicinal purposes.
That’s why the words Trump read off a teleprompter on national TV Tuesday, don’t have as much meaning to many, as the words he was caught saying in private.
“It's a statement that is not based on fact but just an opinion,” Correa said. “We need to sit down and figure all these issues out in a big comprehensive policy.” The congressman then pointed to new research that came out this week that reveals there may be a component in cannabis that has around a 30 percent higher potency than THC.
“So you've got all these discoveries, as a matter of fact, going on and our policies are not designed to address where we need to go,” Correa said. “‘Saying no to drugs’ hasn't worked for 70 years. It's not going to work.” That’s why the president’s “IQ” comments ring louder than his national address.
“Stunning,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told Wikileaf. “It’s not in the same universe.” But Wyden hasn’t lost hope. His office has sent letters to the Trump administration in an attempt to get the president’s attention. “Obviously, the way the president gets and filters information is without presidential precedent,” Wyden said.
“In other words, he does not get reports. But did somebody show up on Fox News one night and say this? Did somebody at the country club come up to him and say, ‘That's the problem.’” Even some pro-pot Republicans – the few who see this as an issue the whole party should get around – are worried, including one of Trump’s top allies in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I’ve had conversations with the president about cannabis reform that have been more productive than that,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Wikileaf in January. “Does that worry you a little bit?” I asked. “Yes,” Gaetz exclaimed. That’s why Wyden and other pro-cannabis Democrats are strategizing on how to boost cannabis policy in 2020, which includes potentially giving Trump a huge win with marijuana voters, even as they desperately want him out of office.
“All you can try to do in these kinds of instances is talk about the bipartisan support for this,” Wyden said. “I would assume at some point he's going to say to himself – with millions of voters having already voted in a manner that doesn’t agree with that – he’s going to say to himself: ‘I'm going to try to win over some of those voters this fall.’”
So, at least for now, there’s hope among marijuana proponents on Capitol Hill that cannabis can still be tackled at the federal level this year. They just have a Trump-sized hurdle to clear first.