White House signals federal crackdown on recreational marijuana states

Emily Gray Brosious

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Holds Daily White House Press BriefingWhite House Press Secretary Sean Spicer goes back-and-forth with reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 9, 2017 in Washington, D.C.(Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


Responding to media questions during a Thursday, Feb. 23, press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated President Donald Trump’s administration may begin cracking down on state-legal recreational marijuana industries.

Spicer said Trump intends to uphold the Congressional budget measure that prevents the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws, but added that “there’s a big difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.”

Spicer suggested the country has enough on its plate with the “opioid crisis,” and that “the last thing” we should be doing is encouraging recreational cannabis use.

“I believe you are going to see greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug for recreational use, Spicer said. “The Department of Justice will be further looking into this.”

Ironically, a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier on Thursday found that 71 percent of Americans would oppose efforts by the Justice Department to enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized the drug for medical or recreational use.

“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,” Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, wrote in an email statement to Extract.

Angell notes that on the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly said he would leave marijuana laws up 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,” he said.

It should also be noted that Spicer’s comments indicating a potential federal crackdown on state-legal marijuana were sandwiched between statements in which he strongly defended states’ rights on other issues, including states’ rights to set their own policies on transgender student bathroom protections.

If the Trump administration does decide to crack down on recreational marijuana, it would put thousands of state-legal cannabis jobs at risk.

To date, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, and 28 states and D.C. have legalized the drug for medical use by qualifying patients.


Related slideshow:

Where Trump’s cabinet picks stand on marijuana policy

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Gallery source links:

Mike Pence – Leafly, On The Issues, NORML; Reince Priebus – The Denver Post; Rex Tillerson – CNN, CNN; John Kelly – CBS News, Drug Policy Alliance, Military Times; Mike Pompeo – NPR, Vote Smart; Nikki Haley – CNN, Tenth Amendment Center; Steven Mnuchin – NBC News, Senate Committee on Finance; Jeff Sessions – USA Today, Politico; Ryan Zinke – Americans for Safe Access, Vote Smart; Sonny Perdue – On The Issues; Hemp Business Journal; David Shulkin – Department of Veterans Affairs/Scribd; Tom Price – NORML; Scott Pruitt – Associated Press; Rick Perry – “The Hugh Hewitt Show”; Mick Mulvaney – NORML

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