By now, it's irrefutable that Americans want legal weed. Multiple polls, including the most recent from the Pew Research Center, show that well over half of us are ready for pot to be legalized. The Pew poll places that number at 61%, an astonishing difference from 2000 when only 31% of people favored its legalization. We've made some incredible strides since the beginning of the millennium, but the future of marijuana still remains murky.
Although Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a huge statement by revoking the Cole Memo in January of 2018, Trump has now officially made his statement regarding legal weed. Spoiler alert: it's a doozy.
To Flip or to Flop?
Trump has always been squirrelly about his views on cannabis. During his non-political days, he was all for legalizing not only marijuana but drugs altogether. In 1990, he explained to attendees at a Miami Herald luncheon he feels the US has not taken enough action to stop drug problems.
"We're losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."
He then went on to suggest that tax income from the legalized drug market ought to be funneled into further drug education for the people. You know, the very same thing legalized states are doing today. This very clear stance he presented all those years ago has definitely changed.
While it's certainly true that many people change their minds over time, most people end up softening their view of cannabis as they learn more about it. Trump, on the other hand, went on to call Colorado's legalization a "real problem," while simultaneously proclaiming his support for medical marijuana. After all: "I know people that have serious problems and they did that they really—it really does help them," as the president said.
The Latest Endorsement
Throughout his campaign, Trump sidestepped the topic of legalization by touting it as a state's rights issue. That would have been a somewhat valid position, had he not appointed the notoriously anti-pot Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
By appointing Sessions, Trump made a significant negative impact on the future of marijuana—although the true meaning of that impact has yet to be determined.
The latest event throwing things into flux is Trump's deal with Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). Gardner promised to block every nominee for the Department of Justice, following AG Sessions’ introduction of a memo that would make a federal crackdown more likely in legal states.
Gardner's blockade ended on April 11th, after he received a call from Trump in which the President promised that Sessions' revocation of the Cole Memo "will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry."
Trump went even further, agreeing to support a "federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue once and for all." This is the clearest indication yet about the future of marijuana, and it will be very difficult for Trump to backtrack on this one.
It's expected that Gardner and other senators will work together to draft a bill that would clarify how the government can and cannot interfere with the cannabis industry in legalized states.
Other Players in the Game
Jeff Sessions is rapidly losing ground as the main figure in legalization news. His rabidly anti-cannabis attitudes were always widely unpopular, but now that the president has pretty much openly refuted him, it may be all over for the attorney general. And other figures have been emerging lately to bring pro-marijuana politics into the limelight.
Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sent a joint letter to Sessions the same week of Gardner's deal, calling on Sessions to stop his efforts at blocking medical marijuana research. This was in response to reports that the Department of Justice was dragging their feet and delaying approvals meant for growers of "research-grade medical marijuana."
While the advocacy on the part of Harris and Hatch is not entirely unprecedented, one major figure helping shape the future of marijuana is a definite surprise. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner has now joined the board of a cannabis company! Although he once declared himself "unalterably opposed" to pot legalization, he's certainly changed his mind.
He claims he saw the light after seeing the mounting evidence supporting medical cannabis, but the lucrative nature of the enterprise probably doesn't hurt either. With someone like Boehner entering the medical cannabis industry, it seems clearer than ever that the future of marijuana is a legitimized one.
Good News Going Forward
While Jeff Sessions seemed to stand in the way of progress, Trump's agreement with Gardner may set the wheels in motion for greater momentum in the future. If a bill limiting the Federal Government's ability to interfere with legal weed does pass, more states will vote to legalize. Already, states like Michigan, New Hampshire, and Ohio are considering or have passed measures legalizing cannabis, and more are sure to follow.
We couldn't be more excited to see what comes next!