The election is over, and the inauguration has occurred. Donald Trump is now officially our nation’s president. As he begins assigning people to his staff and major positions in his cabinet, one question is on the minds of those in the cannabis industry: how will Trump affect the industry, both medical and recreational?
What was Trump’s opinion during his campaign?
During his campaign, Trump made it clear that he was in support of medical cannabis on a federal level. However, his views of recreational Cannabis were less than favorable. In one interview, he did advocate for both medical marijuana and recreational on a state-by-state basis.
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state. … Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Even this is a far cry from a 1990 quote from an interview with the Miami Herald: “We’re losing badly the War on Drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
What do his supporters think?
With that said, what do Trump’s supporters think of medical or recreational cannabis? Well, that’s harder to say. Some polls put the support for recreational legalization at 60%. This means that some of Trump’s supporters must support legalization on some level.
In fact, in five states where support for Trump is high, the support for the legalization of cannabis was also overwhelming. In Florida, more than 4 million residents cast their vote for Trump. The same poll asked about the opinion of cannabis legalization and more than 6.5 million people supported the cause. Similar support for both Trump and cannabis legalization showed in commonly “red” states like Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota.
With four more states legalizing recreational marijuana in the past election, Trump has two avenues that he can decide to pursue. He can try and put an end to the $6.8 billion industry that is legalized marijuana. Alternatively, Trump can support the state’s rights to legislate their cannabis policy.
Advocates for legalization are mixed in their opinions on how this can go. Some see the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions to Attorney General as a sign that he is willing to wage war. Sessions, a senator from Alabama, has staunchly opposed the legalization of marijuana. So has Trump’s appointee to the Department of Homeland Security, retired General John Kelly. As shown above, Trump himself sings a different tune.
President Trump’s Other Concerns
Another encouraging sign is the fact that President Trump seems to be more concerned with other battles. His stances on immigration and repealing the Affordable Care Act appear to be taking priority. He has no mentions of marijuana on his Twitter feed while immigration has been mentioned more than one hundred times. There’s only so much money to tackle so many issues, and marijuana does not seem like such a high priority for President Trump.
Even if Trump did decide to begin dismantling the industries that legalized states have built, he is standing to earn the opposition of his pro-legalization supporters, but also libertarians and states-rights advocates.
Even if Trump takes a soft stance and allows individual states to choose whether or not they legalize the drug, marijuana is likely to remain a Schedule I class drug. Unfortunately, this makes research, even medical research, challenging. Scientists have difficulty getting their hands on Schedule I drugs for research purposes.
Another way the Trump administration can choose to go is to leave existing markets alone. By pressuring states that are not protected by the Rohrabacher amendment, the government could put the brakes on new states that want to legalize the medical or recreational use of cannabis. Another tactic would be to remain vague on their stance. This could cause states with legalization ballots on the horizon to stand down and wait for a definitive position to be taken.
What can marijuana industry expect from 2017? Regulations and policies.
However, there is a silver lining to the question about the Trump administration and the cannabis industry. That silver lining is the fact that Trump is a businessman and many in his administration are business men. The cannabis industry has provided up to 150,000 jobs nationwide, and Trump is a pro-job president. There is also the fact that President Trump likes to shock people with his moves. What could be more shocking than de-scheduling marijuana?
More than likely, the Trump presidency will have little to no effect on the industry. The status quo will remain the status quo. He seems to have other, more important battles that he wants to fight. There’s also the fact that he stands to lose support if he moves against the industry. That wouldn’t bode well for his reelection, and the goal of most presidents is to get reelected.
Updated commentary from the author:
By now many have read the White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s announcement that the Federals have to step up the marijuana law enforcement for recreational use. The statement has created a big confusion regarding the recent legalization of recreation marijuana in 8 states and whether it’s going to create a controversy in states where recreational marijuana is absolutely legal.
There are 2 important things that were said during the speech:
- President Donald Trump “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 said, also noting the previous action by Congress not to fund the Justice Department “going after those folks.”
- “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it,”
The first statement is obvious, he distinguished the use of medical marijuana from the recreational saying that the law enforcement isn’t going to be about the medicinal use of the plant. So marijuana patients are safe from it.
The second statement is at odds with the current status of legalized marijuana. If the Feds overthrow the state laws it will create a great opportunity for the rise of the marijuana black market. The only possible solution, in this case, would be making the marijuana industry regulatory. The government would only benefit from it.
In the long term, a big momentum of legalization is going to build on and the Federals are not on the right side.