Donald Trump has been on both (or several) sides of the cannabis legalization debate since he announced his run for president. He declared himself supportive of medical cannabis and a believer in states’ rights on adult-use marijuana laws as a candidate. However, Trump’s moderate public stances must be weighed against his selection of Reefer Madness prohibitionist Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General (despite their current icy relationship), who repealed the Obama administration’s Cole Memo that allowed states to move forward confidently with their own cannabis programs.
Trump redeemed himself on cannabis policy when he stated his support for the Gardner-Warren state’s rights bill that would provide protection for states that want to repeal prohibition within their own borders. Now, the Trump administration has swung the pendulum back, albeit behind the scenes, as BuzzFeed has revealed in Dominic Holden’s piece “Inside the Trump Administration’s Secret War on Weed”:
The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat, according to interviews with agency staff and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, as it’s named in White House memos and emails, instructed 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration this month to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana and the “threats” it poses to the country.
In an ironic twist, the committee complained in one memo that the narrative around marijuana is unfairly biased in favor of the drug. But rather than seek objective information, the committee’s records show it is asking officials only to portray marijuana in a negative light, regardless of what the data show.
There are a multitude of reasons why the Trump administration is running a “secret war” on cannabis. One, Trump may not even be aware of the war as he’s got his hands full with numerous scandals, investigations, and the mid-term elections to worry about. The administration and various agencies are filled with career prohibitionists that form the “Drug War Deep State,” if you will, made up of folks that aren’t going to give up their power easily. Secondly, Trump could have given his approval, convinced that cannabis measures on the ballot hurt Republicans, and he fears a Democratic takeover in one or both chambers of Congress. Lastly, Trump could actually be behind the effort as he believes he will benefit politically or some of his opponents will be hurt.
I would tend to believe that Jeff Sessions is behind the effort and that Donald Trump probably doesn’t care that much as his priorities are clearly elsewhere at this moment. Even if Trump isn’t behind the effort, he deserves some blame from the cannabis community for nominating Sessions in the first place and if he doesn’t shut down this “secret war” that isn’t so secret anymore, and never was a secret to those paying attention.
Whether Trump is behind this new propaganda war against cannabis or not, it isn’t going to work. Ending cannabis prohibition is too popular and it cuts against party lines. Many Trump supporters, especially among his rabid online advocates, favor legalization and drug policy is one area that they will criticize Trump if they don’t agree with his moves.
We’re only going to see more jobs created and more revenue brought in, especially as California irons outs its regulatory kinks and Canada legalizes for all adults, less than a month before Michigan and Noth Dakota vote on legalization and Missouri and Utah voters cast their ballots on medical use. Swing voters have too much information available at their fingerprints to fall for “the sky is falling” rants of prohibitionists and while Trump government officials try to paint Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, as crumbling Hellscapes, too many news stories fill their social media feeds detailing millions in new revenue and how mainstream the industry has become.
The cannabis industry isn’t an easy way to make a living. You need to love the cannabis plant and be willing to take risks and battle overregulation to reap the rewards that are available to those that survive and thrive. However, the Trump administration’s war on cannabis isn’t a reason to avoid the industry. It is easy to see that these are the last dying gasps of Reefer Madness prohibitionists that are fading into the dustbin of history.
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