What would a Donald Trump presidency mean for cannabis in the U.S.? It’s almost impossible to know, but it doesn’t bode well.
Republican presidential nominee and billionaire New York real estate developer Donald Trump has had two central themes to his campaign, and they point in opposite directions when it comes to cannabis. On one hand, like Mitt Romney, he’s a business guy. Both ran with a message along the lines of, “I made a lot of money for me, now I’ll make a lot of money for you.” This could mean he’d be in favor of allowing banks to work with canna-businesses, and perhaps of further legalization. On the other hand, Trump has recently made a Nixonian shift to law and order. President Nixon launched the modern war on drugs as a pre-text for targeting his enemies — blacks and the anti-war left. A significant portion of Trump record-long nomination acceptance speech was devoted to the idea that, as president, crime would drop quickly and dramatically (despite being at historically low levels). You also may have heard something about a wall that will prevent rapists and drug dealers from entering the U.S.
So which is it? It’s tricky to parse what Trump actually believes and even harder to know what he’d actually do. But we can take some educated guesses.
In 1990, Trump was in favor of legalizing all drugs. Then again, in 1990, Trump was also a pro-choice Democrat. Since then, he has said he opposes full legalization of cannabis, but has been supportive of medical marijuana—“medical marijuana, 100%” he said on CSPAN last year. He also seems fine with letting states that legalize do their thing. He told a crowd in Nevada, “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” as recently as last October. However this year he said he saw “a lot of problems” coming out of legalization state Colorado.
No one knows, including Trump, if he would maintain the status quo on pot — with no big moves federally, and state-level progress.
However, there is the matter of who he’s surrounded himself with. Efforts to add legalization to the GOP platform failed this year. Running mate Mike Pence has been against reducing penalties for possession in Indiana, but it’s not clear if he cares enough about the issue to influence it as vice president. The real roadblock could be Chris Christie. The termed-out New Jersey governor would likely have a role in a Trump Administration, and, given how much of his reputation revolves around having been a U.S. prosecutor under George W Bush, there’s a real possibility of an Attorney General Chris Christie. Among Republicans who ran for president, Christie was uniquely tough on cannabis.
“Marijuana is against the law in the states and it should be enforced in all 50 states,” he said on the Fox News show “Fox and Friends” as a candidate last year. “That’s the law and the Christie administration will support it.”
Michele Leonhart stood in the way of progressive cannabis policy for years as the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Chris Christie would undoubtedly do the same in that role or Attorney General.
Then again, who can say? Perhaps Christie ends up in the Department of Homeland Security, and we end up with a neutral or even quietly friendly administration when it comes to cannabis.
By choosing Pence, and releasing a very conservative list of potential Supreme Court picks, he’s allied himself with traditional Republicans, but this could be seen as a tactical move, given how fractured his party was and largely still is. Now that he’s got the nomination, does he tack to the center? And if he becomes president, what then? Given his various changes in policy over the last two decades, not to mention Trump’s flexibility with facts, there’s no real telling what Trump would mean for cannabis. Fortunately, weed is one thing that can’t be stopped by a wall.
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