Despite increasing threats to enforce federal marijuana prohibition from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fellow member of the Trump administration’s Cabinet just used the podium in the White House press briefing room to advocate for states’ rights to set their own cannabis laws.
“I thought that Colorado was wrong in allowing for the use of marijuana, which they’ve decided to do. But that’s their call,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday. “I will defend that right robustly. That ought to be their call.”
Perry, a former Texas governor, was answering a question about the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era energy policy that requires individual states to meet specific standards on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and which the Trump administration is considering scrapping.
“That’s the beauty of all of this,” he said. “Allow Americans to pick and choose where they want to live, under what types of governments. And we’ll figure it out.”
Criticizing “this idea that we’re gonna have one size fits all out of Washington, D.C.,” Perry said, “One of the reason I came to serve with President Trump was because I knew he believed in that.”
Perry, who repeatedly pledged to defend state marijuana laws during the course of his own failed presidential campaign in 2015, proactively brought up cannabis without prompting in response to the energy policy question.
Earlier in the briefing in response to another question, he called federal intrusion into state affairs “just nonsense” and said, “I happen to believe that the states are laboratories of innovation. They’re innovators just like we have at our national labs.
During his presidential run, Perry consistently voiced support for federalism and the 10th Amendment.
“I don’t agree with those decisions that were made by…the state of Colorado or Washington, but I will defend it to my death, if you will, to allow them to make those decisions,” he said in one radio interview. “I think they will look back and they will find that it was a huge error that they made. But I’m going to stick with the founding fathers rather than picking and choosing which [state laws] I want to defend and which ones I don’t.”
In a Daily Show appearance he said, “If you want to go somewhere where you can smoke medicinal weed, then you ought to be able to do that.”
Trump himself repeatedly said he supported states’ rights to enact their own marijuana laws during the campaign and expressed personal support for medical cannabis, saying he knows people who have benefited from it.
Perry isn’t the only Cabinet member who seems open to marijuana law reform. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said on Saturday that state legalization is leading to increased research on cannabis’s potential benefits for military veterans in light of federal roadblocks.
In contrast, Sessions has asked Congress to undo current protections that prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.