Trump Administration Supports Leaving Marijuana Policy to States
Sen. Cory Gardner says Pres. will direct Dept. of Justice not to interfere with state-legal marijuana programs
* Statement below from Marijuana Policy Project Director of Conservative Outreach Don Murphy *
WASHINGTON — According to a statement released Friday by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), President Trump said in a phone call on Wednesday that he would not allow the Department of Justice to target businesses and individuals who are in compliance with state laws regulating marijuana for adults. Sen. Gardner also said the President would support legislation allowing states to determine their own marijuana polices without federal interference.
While on the campaign trail, Trump made several comments in support of medical marijuana and leaving marijuana policy to the states. As President, he has been mostly silent on the issue, and his statements directing federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in some drug cases caused concerns among marijuana policy reform advocates that he would retreat from his campaign positions on marijuana.
On January 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a Department of Justice policy instituted in 2013 that directed federal prosecutors not to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state medical or adult-use marijuana laws. In response, Sen. Gardner threatened to block any departmental nominees until he received assurances that his state and others with similar laws would not be targeted.
“Sen. Gardner has done a great service for his constituents by standing up for federalism regarding marijuana policy,” said Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Everyone who knew about President Trump’s statements on this issue during the campaign were hoping he would uphold those values and support states’ abilities to enact laws regulating marijuana for medical or adult use while in office. This news should make states more comfortable implementing their legalization programs. It should also serve as a rallying cry for lawmakers to pass comprehensive legislation that leaves marijuana policy to the states permanently.”
Spending restrictions that prevent federal interference in state medical marijuana programs were renewed by Congress in March, but no such protections exist for states that have regulated marijuana for adults. Trump’s reported statements suggest that the same policy will apply to both medical and adult use providers, but the Dept. of Justice could still legally pursue cases against state-legal adult use operations if federal prosecutors choose to do so.
“With the support of the President, the American public, and mounting evidence that regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol is much preferable to prohibition, there is no reason for Congress to delay any longer,” continued Murphy. “There are several pieces of marijuana policy legislation being considered right now, and every one of them should get hearings immediately.”
A Gallup poll released in October showed that 64% of Americans support making marijuana legal for adults. This was also the first time in this annual poll that a majority of Republicans polled supported legalization. A CBS News poll released in April 2017 showed that 71% do not think the federal government should interfere in state marijuana laws.
Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted effective medical marijuana laws. Marijuana is legal and regulated for adults in eight states, and adult possession and limited home cultivation are legal in the District of Columbia and Vermont. More than 20 states are expected to consider bills to regulate marijuana this year.