Whether you voted for or against Trump or not at all, his presidency will likely have serious impacts in various sectors of the United States economy, and the booming legal marijuana business is a large part of that. Trump has changed his stance on cannabis at various times over his lifetime, sometimes stating that he opposes it entirely along with all other “drugs,” and sometimes stating that marijuana is not really a concern, especially in view of the other issues he concentrated on during his candidacy. Personally, I’m incredibly sick of politics right now, but like it or not the federal government can affect the current state-run cannabis industry if it wants to. (The thought has crossed my mind that Businessman Trump might be interested in cannabis industry investments in the future, should legalization continue to sweep the country.) I am, however, not sick of cannabis, so read on for Trump’s past, present, and possible future opinions and actions regarding cannabis legalization.
Trump’s Past Statements on Marijuana
In 1990, the president-elect stated that U.S. drug enforcement is “a joke” and that all drugs should be legalized during a Miami Herald luncheon; he believed then that the war on drugs could never be won until the drug czars were robbed of their profits. Trump also suggested that the legalized drug trade could spend the revenue on public drug dangers education, a situation that has actually come to pass in states like Colorado.
In an interview with Bill O’Reilly last February, Trump noted that legal purchasing of cannabis in Colorado and illegal sales of that same cannabis around the country was “a real problem,” and that he “would really want to think about that one.” He added that he is in favor of legal medical marijuana “a hundred percent.”
As far as enforcing the federal prohibition over the individual state laws, Trump sides with most Republicans who feel that states are the testing grounds for federal legislation, and that states should be able to decide their own marijuana practices and regulations. When asked about Colorado’s recreational legalization, however, Trump noted that it was “bad” experiment and he feels “strongly” about it. This indicates that he probably won’t support recreational legalization during his presidency, but may not take any action if states legalize.
Mike Pence’s Past Statements on Marijuana
Unfortunately for the cannabis industry, Trump’s running mate and now our new Vice President, does not feel the way he does about marijuana. Pence was rated a -20 by NORML, meaning that he is “hard” on drugs. Pence supports Aaron’s Law which would make an opioid overdose antidote available, and The Jennifer Act which will cover Medicaid inpatient detoxification. He signed a needle exchange program into law in May of 2016. Pence also has a strong record of voting for job-creating referendums, and the marijuana industry creates jobs rapidly. He voted to prohibit abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act in 2011, and voted to prohibit federal funds from funding Planned Parenthood in the same year; he recently signed a bill that bans abortions when a fetus has a disability.
Pence is currently the U.S. vice president elect, and a Republican governor in Indiana. Any amount of marijuana in Indiana can get you 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. It only gets harsher from there, and Indiana has yet to legalize even medical marijuana although an October poll found that 73% of those polled wanted it to be legalized (I’m not sure if we should really rely on polls, though, considering the recent presidential race upset). In 2013, an Indiana news source reported that Pence was “questioning legislation” that would decrease marijuana penalties in Indiana, and that he would reduce prison populations by decreasing crime, not criminal penalties. Pence stated, “We are tough and we’re going to stay tough on narcotics in this state.” Quotes about his specific beliefs on marijuana, however, are hard to find – it looks like the industry will just have to wait to see how Pence’s stance plays out.
The Industry on What Trump Means for Marijuana
The cannabis industry, still floating high on legislation successes in eight different states from the November 8th elections, seems more concerned about Pence than Trump, although it’s not clear of those worries are necessary. The Internet is flooded with articles about what the Trump administration might do to cannabis legalization, with fears ranging from Rudy Guiliani or Chris Christie’s possible appointment as Attorney General of the United States to the enforcement of federal laws over state laws. While it doesn’t seem likely that Trump himself will be against current marijuana legalization (at least not in the medical realm), there is the very valid fear that members of his appointed cabinet might handle the issue very differently than he would. In an interview on NPR today, a cannabis industry leader said he believes that the Trump administration will not detract from its success, and that it is hopeful for the future of marijuana.