Indicating that he actually wants to win, Trump also softened his tone yesterday on marijuana legalization. It’s another issue on which he has shifted his position to be more in sync with the Republican base. Trump said states should be allowed to legalize marijuana if they chose to do so, per Jenna Johnson, while reaffirming that he supports making medical marijuana available to very sick patients.
Reason notes, though, that Sanders still has the best position on this issue:
On the face of it, saying the federal government should not interfere with legalization is not as bold as calling for the repeal of the national ban on marijuana, as Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders did this week. But a federalist approach to marijuana, which is what most of the Republican candidates have endorsed, should amount to the same thing. “The time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana,” Sanders said during his appearance at George Mason University on Wednesday. “States should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco….It is time for the federal government to allow states to go forward as they best choose.”
That is the federalist position, and Sanders correctly concludes that it requires removing marijuana from the list of congressionally prohibited substances. Mere prosecutorial forbearance, which is what the Obama administration has offered so far, is no substitute for a statutory change because it can be reversed at any moment by this adminstration or the next, exposing state-licensed marijuana businesses to the risk of raids, felony charges, prison, and property forfeiture. Furthermore, as long as marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, those businesses, which still qualify as criminal enterprises under federal law, will be unable to use the banking system or deduct business expenses on their tax returns.
As has been noted in comments here, legalization is probably inevitable at this stage eventually (although assuming so and relaxing our efforts is not an option). And in years past, I have indicated on this blog that I didn’t think it mattered a whole lot who was President – after all, our political leaders follow, not lead. At that time, our biggest efforts had to be focused on the people – getting them to push for legalization.
Well, we may now be at that point. And removing the federal-state conflict would be incredibly helpful. Completely taking marijuana out of the Controlled Substances list would simplify legalization efforts immensely, and make it possible to craft working legalization models without a cloud hanging over them.
As a side note, this issue right now also helps point out the problem with labels and candidates (and our polarized political system).
Theoretically, it’s a no-brainer that small-government conservatives should have been pushing all along for states rights in this area. And yet, the truly federalist position first comes from the Democratic Socialist. Explain that.