White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today said that the Trump administration may engage in “greater” efforts to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in jurisdictions that have legalized and regulated its adult use.
In response to a question regarding how the administration intends to address statewide marijuana legalization laws, Spicer indicated that the administration views the regulation of marijuana for medical purposes as distinct from laws governing its adult use.
He said: “I’ve said before that the President understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially, terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.” He then added, But “there’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”
On the latter topic, he concluded, “I do believe you will see greater enforcement” of anti-marijuana laws from the Department of Justice.
While campaigning, President Trump voiced support for the authority of individual states to impose regulatory policies specific to the use and dispensing of medical cannabis, but was somewhat less clear with regard to whether he believed that state lawmakers ought to be able to regulate the adult use of cannabis absent federal interference. For instance, he stated that changes in the law in Colorado — one of eight states to legalize the adult use of marijuana — had led to “some big problems.”
Senator Jeff Sessions, now US Attorney General, has been historically critical of marijuana policy reforms, stating: “[M]arijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized. … [I]t’s in fact a very real danger.” He also opined, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and previously endorsed legislation to execute marijuana traffickers.
During his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sessions indicated that as US Attorney General he may take a more aggressive approach than did the Obama administration with regard to states that have enacted recreational use laws.
Commenting on Spicer’s comments, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The press secretary’s comments are hardly surprising and they are similar to comments made by the new US Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his vetting process when he made clear that any use of marijuana remains against federal law and that ‘it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.’
“Ultimately, those who reside in jurisdictions that have legalized and regulated cannabis under state law will only truly be safe from the threat of federal prosecution when and if members of Congress elect to amend federal marijuana laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. Certainly, Congressional passage of HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and/or re-authorization of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment would be steps in the right direction to protect patients and others in legal states from undue federal interference.
“If federal politicians were truly listening to the will of the electorate, they would move forward to enact these federal changes, which are strongly in line with voters’ sentiments. According to national polling data released today, 71 percent of voters — including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” In short, undermining voters’ wishes and state laws in this regard not only defies common sense, it is also bad politics — particularly for an administration that is defining itself as populist in nature.”