US President Donald Trump gave his first address to the Houses of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, outlining his agenda for the next for years. Many agree the speech was by far the most eloquent and presidential the new head of state has sounded in public since taking office. Yet Trump’s words remain as ambiguous as ever, with obscure intentions and generalized commitments to action, leaving the drug policy community in a continued state of uncertainty.
However, if we accept Trumps’ rhetoric at face value, one interpretation leaves open the possibility that in fact, the President could weave cannabis legalization into this plans. While leaving out cannabis specifically, the President addressed “drugs” as an important policy issue three times in his speech:
“We’ve defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open for anyone to cross, and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate….
“We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth, and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted….
“Fourth, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.”
On all three points, the President could achieve his policy goals by eliminating cannabis prohibition altogether. First, Trump’s extreme concern with border safety suggests he wants to lessen the power of foreign criminal cartels profiting from the illegal drug market. But as the last few years of policy experimentation have shown, the regulation of the cannabis market in the US has taken away profits from those cartels by allowing the transparency and oversight of a legally controlled industry. The consumer preference is clear: Americans want to buy home-grown cannabis and keep cannabis jobs in the country.
Second, the President references the problems of addiction, and the need for expanded treatment, especially for youth. While I disagree that “drugs are pouring into our country”, I wholeheartedly support a policy that favors treatment over incarceration in dealing with substance abuse issues for the simple reasons that treatment is cheaper, more effective and humane. And if the President is looking to curb overdose deaths from opiates specifically, then loosening cannabis laws is certainly the way to go.
Finally, President Trump has made reducing the cost of medicines a central part of his platform and promises to the American people. With so much scientific research emerging regarding the benefits of cannabis as a replacement for many more dangerous pharmaceuticals, one clearly sensible solution to the high cost of health care is allowing American citizens the freedom to grow their own alternative medicine.
The future remains unknown, but two things are for sure; first, the world is watching, as always, to see what policy direction the United States takes. Second, the world is planning to react based on those actions, and it is highly doubtful that other countries are going to scale back the progress being made on the cannabis front. Scientific understanding of the plant is increasing daily, and patients are finding relief from myriad maladies.
Serious cannabis entrepreneurs and advocates will want to keep an eye on US politics, but will need to stay on top of other emerging cannabis markets. If the United States doesn’t lead the way on legalized cannabis, then other countries, such as Germany, will be poised to take the lead and reap the economic and social benefits. Of course, the best way to be informed on where cannabis is going is to join the cadre of experts attending the International Cannabis Business Conference this April 10-12th, in Berlin, Germany!