If there’s one clear message to take away from Donald Trump’s first official statement on medical marijuana, it’s that there’s still no clear message on cannabis from the White House.
In a single paragraph within his official statement on the $1 trillion spending bill that will fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, Trump turned sharply from his campaign trail statement that he was “in favor of medical marijuana 100%.”
From the White House statement, emphasis added:
“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. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Marijuana Majority founder and Chairman, Tom Angell, told Business Insider that, while nebulous, the official statement seems to represent the Trump Administration “asserting their right” to enforce federal prohibitions on cannabis in decriminalized states.
“‘[M]y 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,’ Angell said, though he doesn’t think it necessarily indicates a federal crackdown on medical marijuana is coming.”
During an appearance on Cheddar — a live, online news network founded by former Buzzfeed President and COO, Jon Steinberg — Cannabis Now Associate Editor, Greg Zeman, described the combination of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment and the Cole Memo as a “house of cards that’s currently sheltering state-legal cannabis.”
“The amendment prohibits the DOJ from spending any money on the prosectuion of state-legal medical cannabis operations, the Cole Memo offers a little aditional breathing room for states with recreational on the books, ” Zeman said. “Bottom line, you remove one of those cards, the whole thing comes crashing down.”
But he said that, despite the temporary status of the amendment, it still serves as a robust shield against attempts at federal interference in state-legal medical cannabis — at least for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“This amendment is not a paper tiger; it has successfully thwarted fed prosecutions. Trump’s favorite court, the 9th Circuit, actually made a ruling last year saying — despite the DOJ’s insistence to the contrary — the amendment does in fact protect patients and providers in state-legal medical operations,” he said. “The problem is, like the rest of this budget, when the fiscal year terms out so does this amendment. And that’s always been a concern.”
Zeman added that he doesn’t believe the fiscal or political will to orchestrate a large-scale crackdown exists within the White House or Congress, which he believes has seen the writing on the wall when it comes to the shifting public opinion on cannabis prohibition.
As has been the case with the Trump administration since day one, there is still no clear policy direction on state-legal cannabis, and until we see some actual enforcement action by the DOJ, there’s no way to know if such a unified policy even exists.
It remains to be seen if the big talk from team Trump will translate to a sustained chilling effect in the cannabis industry, or if the shock will eventually wear off as the industry begins to see Trump, Sessions and the rest as the boys who cried “crackdown.”
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