White House press secretary Sean Spicer sent ripples of concern through the recreational cannabis industry on Thursday when he said during his daily briefing that the Justice Department could potentially change its policy on enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
“I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said when asked by a reporter if the Department of Justice would take enforcement action against recreational states.
Spicer initially responded to a question about medical marijuana, stating that President Donald Trump “understands the pain and suffering that 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 also said that a 2014 rider to a spending bill passed by Congress made it “very clear what their intent was” by cutting all funding for marijuana enforcement of medical patients.
However, when asked a follow-up, Spicer called recreational marijuana “a very, very different subject,” citing the nation’s opioid epidemic as reason to increase enforcement, though there is no correlation between the two. In fact,
The Obama Administration had taken a hands-off approach to legalized marijuana, with the Justice department opting to not spend money on enforcement in states that have created legalized, regulated recreational use markets. In fact, studies have shown marijuana legalization has reduced the impact of opioid overdose deaths.
The Trump Administration has been less than forthcoming about its plans regarding cannabis enforcement. New Attorney General Jeff Sessions is notoriously anti-marijuana, but is also pro-states’ rights, leading to a sense of confusion as to what may happen next.
Industry experts were quick to condemn Spicer’s statements. During the campaign, when asked about the adult-use market in Colorado, then-candidate Trump said he felt it should be “up to the states” and went so far as to tell the reporter he would not “let” his attorney general shut down rec shops.
The Marijuana Policy Project was one organization to express concern at Spicer’s statements.
“The vast majority of Americans agree that the federal government has no business interfering in state marijuana laws,” Mason Tvert, director of communications for the MPP, said in a statement. “This administration is claiming that it values states’ rights, so we hope they will respect the rights of states to determine their own marijuana policies.
“It is hard to imagine why anyone would want marijuana to be produced and sold by cartels and criminals rather than tightly regulated, taxpaying businesses,” he said.
The National Cannabis Industry Association agreed.
“It would be a mistake for the department of Justice to overthrow the will of the voters and state governments who have created carefully regulated adult-use marijuana programs,” they stated in a press release.
Both the NCIA and the MPP cited a poll also released Thursday by Quinnipiac University showing that 71% of American voters do not think the government should enforce federal laws in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.
The NCIA also addressed the comparison to opioids, calling it “especially disappointing.”
“Science has discredited the idea that marijuana serves as any kind of gateway drug, and the addiction and death rates associated with opioids simply do not occur in any way with cannabis,” they said in their statement. “In fact, scientific research shows that access to cannabis significantly decreases rates of opioid addiction and death.”
Mark Malone, executive director of The Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA) stated: “The legal cannabis industry takes power and money out of the hands of drug cartels and puts funds into state coffers and has the real potential to help offset the Federal Government’s budget shortfalls. The legal cannabis industry provides safety procedures and regulations that protect our youth, and states where cannabis is legal have seen a reduction of teen use. In fact, a recent study found that opioid use decreases in states that legalize marijuana. Dialing back any level of legalization of marijuana would be extremely misguided and would turn back the enormous positive progress that has occurred over the last several years. Going after the legal marijuana industry would be a direct affront to the overwhelming numbers of Americans who have voted time after time to approve legal cannabis. It would also be an affront to the Cole Memo and a misuse of energy and taxpayer funds. The Cannabis industry is compliant, a job creator, and tax engine bringing state budgets out of the red and into the black. Republicans have core values that include belief in state rights and a free market. The same voters that have elected the current Administration continue to overwhelmingly support cannabis, as was evident in this fall’s Elections. President Trump has said that this is a State issue so we expect him to be true to his word and continue to let States regulate cannabis.”[contextly_auto_sidebar]