Riddled with inconsistencies, the only evidence of Donald Trump’s view on marijuana – unfortunately – have come from his mouth rather than any meaningful policy effort. To the degree the Donald veers around his own linguistic tango- in addition to the continued pursuit to minimize leaks of information, political infighting, “fake news”, and potential dissidence within his administration- it is unsurprising Mr. Trump relies both on his ability to make a deal and his experience as an entertainer in his presidency.
Positioning him as uniquely qualified to tell people what they want to hear while advancing his own motives, demystifying some of the verbal inconsistencies comes with an err of necessary speculation. Did he mean that?
Trump and marijuana are two things that happened to be elevated to entirely new levels within organized society on the same night in 2016. While the scale of each individual impact is fundamentally disproportional, depending on who you are talking to, 2016 was a big year. For Mr. Trump, the guy campaigned like crazy and when combined with the sheer audacity of his – and we didn’t know it at the time – looming presidency, a media vortex almost inescapable was created.
Among the various rants, interviews, and debates released by Mr. Trump’s mouth, there have been three important clues to how Trump views marijuana.
October 29th, 2015 – Insights from a political rally
The Washington Post reported in late October 2015, Mr. Trump had a political rally wherein he disclosed a few of his beliefs regarding marijuana. A Republican, Trump said marijuana should be a state issue. States rights, after all, are the bread and butter of several Republican and conservative values.
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.” – Donald Trump
February 10th, 2016 – An interview with Bill O’Reilly
The now-cancelled O’Reilly Factor did an interview in February 2016 with Mr. Trump. Among the topics discussed were trade, China, immigration, and – you guessed it – marijuana. The question posed by Mr. O’Reilly was concerning the black-market sale of marijuana coming from Colorado.
“In Colorado, they legalized pot, ok. $1 billion industry, a billion-dollar a year industry in Colorado. And all of the dealers, all the pushers are going to Colorado, loading up on the free pot because it’s legal, not free — legal and then zooming around the country selling it. Does that concern you?” – Bill O’Reilly
Mr. Trump responded, “That’s a real problem.” When asked what he’d do to stop it, the Trump view of marijuana became a little bit clearer.
“I would really want to think about that one, Bill. Because in some ways I think it’s good and in other ways it’s bad. I do want to see what the medical effects are. I have to see what the medical effects are and, by the way — medical marijuana, medical? I’m in favor of it a hundred percent. But what you are talking about, perhaps not. It’s causing a lot of problems out there…But I know people that have serious problems and they did that they really — it really does help them” – Donald Trump
April 14th, 1990 – A conversation at a luncheon
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported a conversation had with the billionaire at a luncheon put on by the Miami Herald. Of course, this was over a quarter of a century ago and times and people have changed.
“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.” – Donald Trump
Mr. Trump went on to call the US drug enforcement efforts “a joke”, seeming to lament the fact the war on drugs has done more to hurt the US than help. At the time, Mr. Trump suggested using the tax revenues from drug sales, including marijuana, to fund programs able to educate the broader public about the risks of drugs.
What they suggest about his policy
Mr. Trump thinks marijuana, it would seem, is decidedly more favorable as a medical treatment, yet the lack of specific input as to where he’d see enforcement priorities change, or potential curbs to state-based marijuana programs leaves his administration’s stance a mystery. This, to me, implies he’s much more likely to delegate his administration’s position on marijuana to the Department of Justice, where a long-time opponent of marijuana, Jeff Sessions, currently resides as Attorney General.
Rather than taking the active, reflexive approach in honoring state rights, the Trump Administration could instead tighten the criteria defined by the Cole Memos, the Obama-era guidance from the Department of Justice regarding state-based marijuana programs.
As an extension of Trump’s view on marijuana as a medical product, in May 2017, he signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill which includes an amendment prohibiting the Department of Justice from using any funds to crackdown on medical marijuana programs. Whether Mr. Trump or his administration will seek to reverse or slow the legal marijuana market is unclear at this time.