January 8, 2018

White House Asserts Support for Federal Crackdown on Legal Marijuana

January 8, 2018
The announcement comes in spite of Trump's previous opinion that cannabis is a state's issue.

AG Jeff Sessions wants to end legal cannabis, and President Trump may now agree.

Despite promising on the campaign trail to let the states decide their fates on cannabis legalization, the Trump administration now appears to agree with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement that a federal crackdown is iminent.

During last Thursday’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked acting Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Does President Trump see marijuana as a state’s issue or a federal issue?” Sanders stated that the President believes “enforcing federal law is a top priority.” However, she added that this relates not just to cannabis legalization but also other topics such as immigration.

Statement Comes in Response to DOJ’s Plan to Rescind the Cole Memo

The question was raised after a statement released earlier in the day signaling the Department of Justice’s plan to rescind the Cole memo, an Obama-era policy that offers certain protections for states that have legalized cannabis for medical and/or adult-use purposes.

Sanders, who assumed the question was related to the DOJ announcement, added, “This simply gives prosecutors the tools to take on large-scale distributors and enforce federal law. The President’s position hasn’t changed, but he does strongly believe that we have to enforce federal law.”

Trump Previously Showed Support for Medical Marijuana

The Press Secretary’s answer is in sharp contrast of President Trump’s previous statements on cannabis. In a 2016 appearance on Fox News, he said of medical marijuana, “I’m in favor of it a hundred percent.” And while he has said he opposes legalizing marijuana for adult use, after a primary debate in Colorado in 2015, Trump also said, “I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.”

Despite the DOJ’s announcement on the Cole memo and Sanders’ insistence that the White House is dedicated to enforcing federal policy, cannabis industry insiders believe that business will continue as usual. Analysts from Grand View Research released numbers last week projecting the global medical marijuana market to be worth over $55 billion by the year 2025. In addition, six-in-ten Americans now support cannabis legalization. Knowing this, prosecutors in legal states are unlikely to follow DOJ recommendations.


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