Although U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has spent the better part of the past year threatening to launch a vicious crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, the latest word from the White House is that the business of growing and selling weed in the United States is safe from those redneck shenanigans…at least for now.
President Trump, who has remained mostly silent on the issue of marijuana legalization since taking office, said earlier last week that he has called off the dogs, leaving cannabis operations to keep on keeping on without fear of federal prosecution.
But this retreat from the administration’s hammer-fisted approach to the drug culture does not mark an official policy change. But rather, it comes in the form of a non-binding deal struck between President Trump and Republican Senator Cory Gardner. Basically, the lawmaker got the president to assure him that marijuana businesses operating in legal states are no longer at risk for having their doors kicked in by the goons at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. As part of the deal, Gardner has promised Trump that he will stop blocking Justice Department nominees.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said in a statement. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
“Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees,” Gardner added.
According to various reports, including one from the Washington Post, the Justice Department was not consulted prior to the deal. This means that while the Trump Administration has essentially reverted back to the days of the Obama administration with respect to how it handles legal weed – the hands off approach – Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not issued yet another worthless memo to put the cannabis industry at ease. Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo at the beginning of 2018, which gave legal states the freedom to experiment with the concept of marijuana legalization. At the time this article was written, the Justice Department still had not provided a statement regarding the president’s decision to back off its hateful relationship with marijuana. It is not known whether Sessions will publish an updated directive.
Marijuana advocacy groups had mixed feelings about the news. Some see it as a positive move, while others do not trust any of the promises that come from the current administration. But most agree this is only the first step in taking the cannabis legalization issue to the next level.
“We applaud this commitment from President Trump, who promised during his campaign to take a federalist approach with regard to marijuana policy,” NORML Director Erik Altieri said in a statement.
“That campaign promise was not reflected by Trump’s appointment of longtime marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney General or any of the actions that Sessions has taken since becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer.”
But this move in no way means that the United States is any closer to ending federal marijuana prohibition. It is up to Congress, at this point, to pass legislation to allow marijuana to become a part of taxed and regulated commerce, the same as alcohol and tobacco. The only problem is the legalization issue does not have enough support on Capitol Hill. Democrats and Republicans alike continue to ignore the fact that more the 60 percent of the American population has expressed great interest in this reform.
“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,” Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “There are several pieces of marijuana policy legislation being considered right now, and every one of them should get hearings immediately.”
For now, all Trumps’ promise means is that the cannabis industry can rest easier knowing that federal marijuana enforcement is not a priority. But without Congress putting more concrete policies into place, the president could decide at any time to unleash the hounds.