White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a packed house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave today that he expects to see increased enforcement of federal marijuana law in places that now have recreational cannabis on the books.
Sessions was hit with this question from a Tennessee media outlet attending the press conference via satellite.
“Our state voters passed a medical law in November, now we’re in conflict with federal law. The Obama Administration chose not to strictly enforce those laws,” the reporter said. “My question to you is, with Jeff Sessions as AG, what is going to be the Trump administrations stance on this?”
Spicer quickly fired back:
“There are two distinct issues here, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana… I think medical marijuana, I’ve said before 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.”
Spicer then went into a quick breakdown of how the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which he referred to as an appropriations rider during the conference, prevents the DOJ from enforcing federal marijuana laws against those compliant with state policies.
“There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana, and I think 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,” Spicer said. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of the medical use, and when it comes to recreational, and other drugs There’s a big difference between medical in accordance with appropriations rider vs. recreational.”
Sean Spicer says Trump administration sees a big difference between medical marijuana (cool) and recreational marijuana (not cool) pic.twitter.com/NYuF5F8o7Z
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 23, 2017
The next reporter Spicer called on immediately followed up on the biggest statement yet to be made by the administration regarding cannabis, asking if the feds would be taking action in those adult use-legal states. Spicer’s response to that question (and a followup by another reporter) was chilling:
“That’s a question for the DOJ. I do think you’ll see greater enforcement… I believe they are going to enforce the laws on the books with regards to marijuana.”
Majority for Marijuana
Earlier in the day, Quinnipiac University revealed the results from national polling that found 93 percent of voters — including 96 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans — support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes,” the highest total ever reported in a national poll. Among those respondents older than 65 years of age, 92 percent endorsed legalizing medical marijuana.
We reached out to Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority to get his take on the first big statement on pot policy from Trump.
“If the administration is looking for ways to become less popular, cracking down on voter-approved marijuana laws would be a great way to do it. On the campaign trail, President Trump clearly and repeatedly pledged that he would leave decisions on cannabis policy to the states,” Angell said. “With a clear and growing majority of the country now supporting legalization, reneging on his promises would be a political disaster and huge distraction from the rest of the president’s agenda”
Outgoing Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann was also quick to issue a statement on the subject.
“Trump seems insistent on throwing the marijuana market back into the hands of criminals, wiping out tax-paying jobs and eliminating billions of dollars in taxes,” Nadelmann said. “As for connecting marijuana to the legal opioid crisis, Spicer has it exactly backwards. Greater access to marijuana has actually led to declines in opioid use, overdoses and other problems.”
Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Spicer’s statements underline the crucial nature of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to safe access.
“Mr. Spicer acknowledged that the Justice Department is currently prohibited from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws,” he said. “It is critical that Congress once again includes that provision in the next budget, and we are hopeful that they will also adopt a provision that extends that principle to all state marijuana laws.”
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