Cannabis supporters are feeling rather insecure about the Trump administration’s stance on cannabis. For many, it remains unclear whether or not they pose a threat to state’s rights and patient’s rights when it comes to cannabis laws.
At the end of April, many were relieved to hear that Rohrabacher-Farr, an amendment that prevents the government from using federal funds to interfere in legal pot states, was renewed until the end of the fiscal year.
That is until a week later, when President Trump signaled that he may ignore the provision and pursue federal drug enforcement in legal states anyway (if the administration deems it necessary to do so).
Medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, in spite of its legality in some 29 states across the U.S. But the Rohrabacher-Farr provision provided some degree of reassurance for these states. The amendment reads,
Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories.
It was all good just a week ago, but things got complicated when pro-cannabis advocates read Trump’s signing statement for the amendment,
I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
The language is troubling because leaves the possibility on the table for future marijuana crackdowns. Tom Angell, the founder of Marijuana Majority told Business Insider,
My read is its basically saying they reserve the right to do whatever they want and enforce prohibition regardless of the statutory prohibition on doing so.
As if we needed more reasons under the current political climate to be nervous about the future of the precious plant.
Last week, there seemed to be a little light at the end of the tunnel when Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed to de-prioritize pot enforcement after expressing that the U.S. Department of Justice had “higher priorities” than to interfere in legal states.
Sessions has been a vocal critic of marijuana, medical or otherwise, and has even compared it to harsh drugs like heroin and cocaine. “It’s not a healthy substance, particularly for young people,” Sessions told law enforcement officials last month.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has also stated that cannabis enforcement could ramp up under this Presidency.
Trump’s signing statement regarding the provision is considered to be his first statement on medical marijuana since taking office in January. Trump himself hasn’t said much about what he plans to do about existing cannabis laws, but he has certainly allowed a mixture of doubt and uncertainty to loom about.
Trump’s statement also has larger implications, as the language seems to put the President at odds with Congress, who has the sole power to allocate funding for federal operations under the Constitution.
Former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee Steve Bell, is concerned about the overreach of power, saying,
It is the Constitutional prerogative of the Congress to spend money and to put limitations of spending. This is an extremely broad assertion of executive branch power over the purse.