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Will the Trump Administration Throw Recreational Marijuana Under the Bus?

In Lewis Carroll’s, “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass,” the Mad Hatter said, “Well that’s it: if you don’t think you shouldn’t talk!”


The inauguration of Donald Trump is bringing with it many grave uncertainties. He has stated that he intends to govern in the same manner as he runs his companies-by keeping people guessing and off balance. It is this disequilibrium that should be of concern to all of us in the U.S. marijuana industry.


Trump has frequently indicated, and it is a given, that he will make major policy changes during his first 100 days in office. Many, if not most, of his decisions, will fly in the face of the policy decisions and actions by the outgoing Obama administration.


Trump’s actions, will include but are not limited to, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, policies affecting tariffs and trade and immigration policy. I think it’s likely that Trump will delegate almost everything else to the individuals he has chosen to run his agencies and departments. Trump’s delegation of decision making could be a big problem for everyone involved in state-licensed recreational marijuana businesses, those benefiting from medical marijuana, or enjoying recreational marijuana.


Trump has stated that decisions regarding the use of medical marijuana should be left to the states. However, noticeably absent in his comments are any references to recreational marijuana.


I suspect that it will make no difference to Trump that voters in eight states have approved the legalization of recreational marijuana. Based on his “tweets” and public statements on other issues, Trump’s grasp of what a majority of Americans think about, or care about, does not appear to affect his positions and proposed actions.


Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is clearly an adversary of any form of marijuana legalization.


Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor recently was quoted as saying, “The Justice Department is likely to be one of the most transformed departments in the cabinet in a Trump administration, and with an Attorney General Sessions, you’d obviously see a very strong law-and-order figure at the top.”


I would not at all be surprised if Sessions rescinds or substantially revises the Cole Memo, the primary federal executive action which currently allows state-licensed marijuana programs to exist.


With a stroke of a pen, Sessions could easily revoke the right of state-licensed recreational marijuana programs to exist. It would be consistent with his background and positions, and certainly, make a big splash as a "law and order” attorney general, with a segment of the American public. I’m often asked what keeps me awake at night, and this is it.


It would be foolhardy for even the bellicose Trump to begin his administration by withholding medical marijuana from patients. The public outcry would be tremendous, not only by those who depend on the medicine but also by their relatives and caregivers.



I believe that Sessions could reluctantly tolerate state-licensed medical marijuana, but recreational marijuana is another matter. In Sessions’ world, facilitating “kids getting high on street corners,” is at total odds with his beliefs and past statements regarding drugs and alcohol.


Many of my colleagues in the marijuana industry remind me that hundreds of millions of tax dollars and tens of thousands of jobs have been generated by states including Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State, which already have recreational marijuana programs. They uniformly believe that there is little possibility that Washington would terminate state-licensed recreational marijuana businesses.  Let’s hope that they’re right, and I’m wrong.


Copyright 2016 - Jeffrey Friedland


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© 2020 Jeffrey Friedland - All Rights Reserved