The president did cover topics where cannabis policy intersects with broader American societal issues, including addiction, criminal justice reform and economic growth. Nevertheless, despite not being mentioned on Capitol Hill, pot found its way into the conversation on both sides of the aisle tonight.
Like he did on the campaign trail, Trump regularly referenced law enforcement during the address, at one point calling for “total and unwavering support,” which presumably includes supporting the Department of Justice’s recent threat of crackdown on state cannabis programs.
Many advocates said after the State of the Union address that they do not have faith in Trump’s policing or public health plans.
“Escalating the War on Drugs by scapegoating immigrants and pushing for increased drug arrests will only exacerbate the crisis by diverting scarce resources away from evidence-based public health interventions that have actually been proven to reduce the harms of problematic drug use, including overdose,” said Grant Smith, Deputy Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “It is surreal that Trump would call for prison reform and an escalation of the War on Drugs in the same speech.”
The only time Trump specifically referenced any crimes in the speech was when he was talking about North Korea and Iran.
Washington, D.C.-based progressive commentator Tim Black tweeted that he doesn’t think people weren’t fooled last night. “Trump and Jeff Sessions are dead set on jailing poor people for possessing marijuana, meanwhile record numbers of Americans are overdosing on opioids prescribed by heartless pharmacies,” he said.
We are not fooled! Trump and Jeff Sessions are dead set on jailing poor people for possessing Marijuana meanwhile record numbers of Americans are overdosing on Opioids prescribed by heartless pharmacies. #sotu
— Tim Black ™ (@RealTimBlack) January 31, 2018
John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute’s domestic policy research arm, tweeted during the speech: “If the president is serious about cracking down on ‘drug dealers and pushers’ he ought to order his Attorney General not to crack down on state legal and regulated marijuana businesses.”
Hudak also jumped on the president’s comments about domestic experimental medical treatments, tweeting: “@realDonaldTrump wants terminal patients to have access to experimental treatments and not have to go to other countries. I wonder what he thinks of his administration’s attack on terminal patients seeking medical #marijuana?”
.@realDonaldTrump is following in his predecessors’ footsteps by making sure that Gitmo remains open. The only difference between him and Obama, is that Trump was honest about wanting to keep it open.
— John Hudak (@JohnJHudak) January 31, 2018
Others also joined on the experimental medicine topic with physician and 2008 Republican primary contender Ron Paul, who told followers on Twitter, “Terminally ill should have access to experimental drugs – yes! But in a free market all free individuals should be able to make decisions on what kinds of medicine they wish to take. Like marijuana.” Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura backed Paul’s statement.
Aaron Ross Powell of the Cato Institute was also curious about Trump’s claims to protect people who want to try experimental medicine. “Does the Right to Try include medical marijuana? Because his DoJ seems rather opposed to it,” tweeted Powell.
While Trump’s expected approach to pot doesn’t have a lot of fans, with a record 64 percent of American voters supporting legalization in a Gallup poll last year, the Democratic response also was far from pro-cannabis.
Bobby Kennedy’s grandson, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), took the reins for the Democrats and gave the rebuttal to the State of the Union. Over the years, the Kennedys have earned themselves a reputation as working to continue cannabis prohibition. They achieved this by being founding backers of the nation’s leading anti-pot political action committee, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which celebrated getting the Governor of Vermont to delay signing legalization into law in 2017. (Ultimately, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott ended up signing a cannabis legalization bill earlier this month, making Vermont the first state to legalize with the governor’s pen and not a ballot initiative.)
Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell provided a scathing review of the decision to pick Kennedy. He noted 75 percent of Democrats back legal pot, 95 percent back medical cannabis and only 12 percent want the feds to interfere with state law. As for Kennedy, Angell reminded everyone that the representative voted against shielding state marijuana laws from the DOJ, voted against veterans being able to get access to a medical recommendation through the Veterans Administration, and voted against protecting epileptic children using CBD oil from being raided by the DEA.
72% of Democrats support legalizing marijuana
95% of Dems back medical cannabis
Only 12% of Dems want the feds to intervene in state marijuana laws
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) January 31, 2018
TELL US, do you think the president should have talked about cannabis?