Trump’s Stance on Medical Cannabis: Broken Down
May 8, 2017
On Thursday, President Trump signed a $1 trillion spending bill to maintain the government’s operations through September, which details funding specifications on a wide variety of sectors. In addition, Trump signed an amendment to the bill on Friday that indicated the Administration’s anxiously awaited stance on the medical cannabis industry. In the amendment, it specifies that “the Department of Justice (DOJ) may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories.” At a quick glance, it sounds like the federal government will leave medical marijuana alone, but that’s not the whole story.
It’s still not clear if this was a simple error or an intentional omission, but the bill outlines the inability to utilize federal funds to prevent medical marijuana programs in states which have legalized it and then continues to list all the states to make sure to specifically cover each. Curiously, it omits 6 states; Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Both Indiana and North Dakota have legalized some level of medical cannabis. Technically, this would indicate that these states cannot operate medical cannabis programs without risk of federal interference, but the other 44 can. While it’s unclear why these 6 states were not included, it certainly causes concern for those involved in medical cannabis in one of excluded the states. North Dakota U.S. Sen. John Hoeven responded by saying it will not affect the state’s impending medical marijuana program and that he will be contacting AG Sessions to double check that it won’t be an issue for the state.
Due to several objections to provisions in the measure, President Trump was reluctant to sign it in full. Among several others, medical cannabis was one of the provisions that he mentioned as being uncomfortable with. In order to maintain a certain level of control over the provisions he was not 100% onboard with, he signed them utilizing a signing statement; a tool that presidents and government officials have utilized to explain their opposition to certain bills that they were rushed to sign anyways. The signing statement read, “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” In short, Trump and his administration reserve the right to enforce federal law on medical cannabis so long as it means he is faithfully executing on behalf of federal law.
This topic was not mentioned in the bill, which leaves it open for federal enforcement. Given the Jeff Sessions comments that have had our industry tossing at night for over a month, there’s still a looming threat of a federal crackdown on adult-use cannabis industries, regardless of any validity of the Cole Memo.
So is medical cannabis really safe? No – not yet. Should the federal government pursue efforts to prevent medical marijuana, this gives them significantly more opposition in doing so. It would require provisions to be changed and funding to be obtained, which would take months of hurdles and would face substantial opposition from the industry and its advocates. It would make it a whole lot tougher to crackdown on medical cannabis, but it wouldn’t be impossible.
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