Politics

Bill Maher Just Issued a Dire Warning to Marijuana Advocates

December 29th 2016

By:
Mike Rothschild

In an exclusive interview with ATTN:, Bill Maher predicted under the presidency of Donald Trump, the US could return to the days when legal marijuana was a fantasy.

bill-maher

"I had one friend who went to jail in 2000 because we made marijuana medically legal here in California in 1996, but the feds came in and said 'sorry.'" When asked if he thinks this will lead to a rise in raids on legal users in states where marijuana is legally sold, Maher said "I certainly think it's possible."

Fortunately for marijuana users in the 28 states where marijuana is legal, it won't be easy for the federal government to step up its enforcement.

The Drug Enforcement Administration announced in August that marijuana would remain illegal, and that it had no reproducible medical effect. But the Obama administration has dialed back on enforcement, vowing not to block state laws regarding distribution, and allowing a greater number of institutions to grow plants for research purposes.

What marijuana advocates fear is that the election of Donald Trump will reverse all of that.

In particular, Trump's pick for Attorney General, Alabama Republican senator Jeff Sessions, has exhibited a particular disdain for both marijuana and those who use it.

"Good people don't smoke marijuana," Sessions thundered during a Senate hearing in April. He continued,

"We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger. I can't tell you how concerning it is for me emotionally and personally to see the possibility that we would reverse the progress that we’ve made and let it slip away from us. Lives will be impacted, families will be broken up, children will be damaged.”

While Sessions might be as anti-marijuana as any politician — he once said President Barack Obama's confession of marijuana use directly led to deaths from overdoses — Trump himself has said little about the drug.

According to High Times, Trump appeared to be pro-legalization in the 1990s, but flipped by 2015. However, Trump has also said that it's up to the states to enforce their own marijuana laws, and that he's "100 percent" for medical marijuana. “Medical I agree with. Medical I like… Medical is ok," he said during a January rally.

Even if Trump takes a hands-off approach to marijuana policy and delegates it to Sessions, legal experts believe we won't see a sharp uptick in raids and arrests.

For one thing, marijuana legalization is extremely popular among both parties.

Gallup found in October that 60 percent of Americans nationwide support legalization, with 42 percent of Republicans in favor, a number that's doubled in the last decade. It's also extremely expensive, with enforcing marijuana laws costing the government over $8 billion in 2013.

It seems unlikely that Trump, who has pledged to cut government spending wherever possible, will commit the billions of extra dollars needed to prosecute a drug war he's ambivalent about. But what would actually happen if a Session-led law enforcement arm did lead a crackdown on legal marijuana?

According to lawyer and author Jeffrey Dorf, state and local governments aren't interested in committing the resources to fight marijuana, while the federal government doesn't have the money or prosecutors. A few high-profile raids on dispensaries would likely send the legal marijuana market into a tailspin, but will do nothing to curb the drug's popularity.

This would lead to, as Dorf puts it,

"the worst of all possible worlds: No one would offer regulated marijuana under the state's regime, for fear of a federal raid; state and local government would not expend many resources to combat illegal marijuana; and federal resources would be inadequate to police illegal marijuana in a way that substantially reduces supply. The net result would be to increase the power of drug gangs and the associated violence.

To watch more of Bill Maher's thoughts on what Trump's election will mean for marijuana, watch the video below.