Yesterday, Sean Spicer attempted to call out a difference between medical and recreational marijuana at the federal level. He clearly does not understand that ALL marijuana is federally illegal. Further, he made a poor and factually incorrect analogy by comparing the current opioid abuse crisis to marijuana use. Spicer ended his comments on recreational marijuana by stating that the DOJ will step up enforcement actions.
What does this mean?
As we all know, Trump is a wild card, and Spicer’s comments do little to clarify the administration’s position. Previous statements on the issue indicate some degree of support for the cannabis industry, or at a minimum, support for states to determine their own regulations. “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” Trump told The Washington Post. “… Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Further, the recent FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill contains the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment which prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws was also widely supported by a GOP controlled Congress (passed in the House by a vote of 242-186, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it 21-9). A recent Gallup Poll found nationwide support for legalization at 60%, the highest it likely has ever been. Florida also passed its medical-cannabis initiative with 71% approval – Florida also voted for President Trump. It is clear from Trump’s statements and Spicer’s comments that medical marijuana should remain a non-enforcement priority.
So based on Spicer’s comments regarding recreational marijuana – does Attorney General Sessions unwind years of hands-off federal policy towards state-legal recreational marijuana? We’ll just have to wait and see. I am hopeful that Spicer’s comments are just that, off-the-cuff comments with little substance or thought. However, the recreational marijuana industry is now on notice. I think we are in for a bumpy 2017.