For the first time since he became president, Donald Trump has finally indicated where he stands on cannabis — sort of.
“Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various states and territories,” Trump said in a statement on Friday. “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Last week, Trump signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the federal government funded and running through September. The bill included a provision in the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, disallowing the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency from from using federal funds to target and prosecute state compliant medical marijuana businesses. However, while medical marijuana will be protected in the 29 states where it’s now legal, the provision doesn’t extend to protect adult use cannabis businesses.
Trump’s statement on the matter is welcome clarification, given the months of guesswork cannabis community leaders have gone through, however some are still aiming to figure out his true intentions. While Trump has claimed to be in support of states’ rights to do as they please with cannabis, his pick for attorney general, Reagan-style prohibitionist Jeff Sessions who’s been vocal about his hostility toward adult use and medical marijuana, seem to suggest otherwise.
According to some, Trump can’t totally be trusted. “My read is it’s basically saying they reserve the right to do whatever they want and enforce prohibition regardless of the statutory prohibition on doing so,” says Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, though he doesn’t necessarily predict that the federal government will actually crack down on medical cannabis.
Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says that Trump sends “mixed messages” on cannabis. “After stating during the campaign that he was ‘100 percent’ in support of medical marijuana, he now issues a signing statement casting doubt on whether his administration will adhere to a congressional rider that stops the Department of Justice from going after medical marijuana programs,” he says. “The uncertainty is deeply disconcerting for patients and providers, and we urge the administration to clarify their intentions immediately.”
While it’s unlikely that medical marijuana will be the Justice Department’s primary target, cannabis industry folk may want to tread warily. Some nonetheless argue the movement is too big to take down. Having brought in more than $6 billion last year, the cannabis industry is only getting bigger and mightier, insulated by millionaire investment strategy and the political sway of the nation’s 29 green states, including congressional heavyweights like California and New York.