Politics

What Will Happen to Your Weed Under Donald Trump

November 9th 2016

By:
Kyle Jaeger

The marijuana legalization movement scored a tremendous victory on Tuesday: Four states voted to legalize recreationally, and another three voted to enact medical marijuana systems — bringing the total number of legal states to 28.

But there's some anxiety in the pro-legalization community about the potential implications of a Donald Trump presidency on state marijuana policy.

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Could he upend the success of the movement by choosing to enforce federal laws that prohibit cannabis? Yes. Is he likely to do so? Experts are doubtful.

After all, Trump has previously pledged to respect state marijuana laws. "If they vote for it, they vote for it," he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference last year. The self-described "state's person" has given no indication that he would unleash the Drug Enforcement Administration upon states who have legalized cannabis and send America back into an era of strict prohibition.

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That doesn't mean that Trump, or a member of his cabinet, couldn't change his mind.

"We know that, not just with regard to marijuana and drug policy, but on a number of issues he has evolved his position any number of times, and so there is somewhat of a concern among people in the movement that even though he's made these clear pledges, they could potentially be walked back — especially if he surrounds himself with people who feel much more passionately about this issue than he does and they really want to crack down" Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell told ATTN:.

There's a legitimate concern about the role of Trump's future cabinet on federal drug policy. He's expressed interest in putting certain advisers in the Justice Department — namely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani — who are expressly opposed to marijuana reform. During the Republican primaries, then-candidate Christie vowed to "enforce the federal laws" on marijuana.

Chris Christie

But would it be worth the political capital to crack down on state marijuana laws in light of mounting public support for legalization? That's what gives Angell hope:

"Obviously the country is extremely divided right now and the onus really is on the new administration to start trying to bridge that divide. They probably need a few policy initiatives that are going to have broad appeal, but they also need to not piss people off when they are trying to build coalitions to move their own — what they went there to do, why they ran. Cracking down on enormously popular state marijuana laws would just be an enormous distraction from what they care about doing the most, whatever it is."

Legalization initiatives passed in two states (Florida and Arkansas), where the majority voted for Trump on Tuesday. In Florida, a measure to enact a medical marijuana system passed with 71 percent support. That speaks to the increasingly bipartisan nature of the issue, Daniel Shortt, an attorney who specializes in cannabis law at the Harris Moure law firm, told ATTN:.

"It's one of the few things that I feel like this country agrees is that we need to changes these cannabis laws," Shortt said. "There's so much money being made in cannabis and also just the idea of personal freedom. I think that those are values in the Republican party."

Shortt also pointed out that under Christie's governorship, New Jersey expanded its medical marijuana program in September. He signed a law that added post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana in the state, NJ.com reported.

"I don't want to read too much into that, but I think it's one thing to consider because it's hard to know what's going to happen," Shortt said. But he conceded that while the legalization movement had "hit a tipping point" on Election Day, uncertainly looms nonetheless. "Because the [federal] law is what it is," he said, "there's always potential for a change in enforcement priority by the federal government."