Washington, D.C. - White House spokesman Sean Spicer dropped a bombshell on Thursday when he said that states, where recreational marijuana is currently legal, will be subject to “greater enforcement” of federal law under the new Trump administration.
Interestingly, this position strikes a drastically different tone than when the White House signaled the importance of states rights’ in their new policy regarding transgender bathrooms in public schools.
When asked about the rollback of Obama administration rules on bathroom and locker room access for transgender kids in schools, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said,
“The president believes it’s a states’ rights issue.”
Incredibly, during the same briefing, Spicer signaled the Justice Department is looking at “greater enforcement” of federal laws against sales of recreational marijuana, setting up potential showdowns with the eight states where it is now legal.
The lack of consistency regarding states’ rights is nothing less than mind-blowing, yet when looking at it through a strategic lens it makes perfect sense. The Trump administration doesn’t actually care about states rights – but rather about aligning the administration's policy with what they perceive as their base of support -- social conservatives. This move will almost certainly enrage the large contingent of libertarians that supported Trump in his run for the White House. However, that rage remains to be seen.
Although under federal law marijuana remains illegal, voters in Colorado and seven other states and Washington, D.C., approved measures to legalize recreational pot sales and consumption, while medical marijuana is legal in 28 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the District of Columbia.
Colorado, which legalized recreational pot sales in 2014, recorded $1.3 billion in medical and recreational cannabis sales in 2016. Nationally, sales of cannabis are projected to reach $24.5 billion by 2025, according to a report issued earlier this week by industry analytics firm New Frontier Data.
“There’s a big difference between (medical marijuana) and recreational marijuana, and I think when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said, revealing the extreme ignorance of current administration's views on drug addiction.
The fact of the matter is that cannabis has actually been shown to alleviate opioid addiction, thus making Spicer’s statements regarding opiate addiction as a corollary to marijuana use completely fallacious – and completely disproven by current scientific research.
“Science has discredited the idea that marijuana serves as any kind of gateway drug,” Aaron Smith, executive director of National Cannabis Industry Association said, “and the addiction and death rates associated with opioids simply do not occur in any way with cannabis.”
In fact, a growing body of research reveals that the decriminalization of marijuana is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse and fewer opioid-related fatalities.
As the Free Thought Project has previously reported, a JAMA Internal Medicine study looked at ten years of data in all 50 states, concluding that states with medical cannabis laws had significantly lower rates of opioid overdose mortality.
Also, a second study has confirmed the powerful effect that medical cannabis has on reducing opioid abuse.
In 17 states with medical cannabis laws in place by 2013, the researchers “found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented.”
“The president has said time and again that the decision about marijuana needs to be left to the states,” U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, said in a statement about Spicer’s comments. “Now either the president is flip-flopping or his staff is, once again, speaking out of turn. Either way, these comments leave doubt and uncertainty for the marijuana industry, stifling job growth in my state.”
Polis is a member of the congressional Cannabis Caucus, along with Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, whose state started recreational sales in the fall of 2015.
“The national prohibition of cannabis has been a failure, and millions of voters across the country have demanded a more sensible approach. I’m looking forward to working with the leadership of our newly formed cannabis caucus to ensure that these wishes are protected,” Blumenauer said in a statement reported by The Cannabist.
While on the campaign trail, Trump said that he favored states’ rights and would not interfere even with legal recreational use states such as Colorado. He now seems poised, with the appointment of rabid drug warrior, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to helm the Department of Justice, and the recent statements of Spicer, to attempt to dismantle the legal recreational marijuana market.
Tom Angell of drug law reform group Marijuana Majority summed the situation up succinctly: “If the administration is looking for ways to become less popular, cracking down on voter-approved marijuana laws would be a great way to do it. On the campaign trail, President Trump clearly and repeatedly pledged that he would leave decisions on cannabis policy to the states. With a clear and growing majority of the country now supporting legalization, reneging on his promises would be a political disaster and huge distraction from the rest of the president’s agenda.”