White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during the daily White House press briefing on Thursday that the Trump administration is likely to increase the enforcement of marijuana laws in states that have legalized recreational cannabis.
“I do believe you will see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, in what has become the Trump administration’s first official statement on the cannabis industry since taking control. The statement was made in response to questions from two separate reporters.
News broke on Twitter almost immediately:
Spicer: DOJ will be “taking action” against states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) February 23, 2017
Spicer just said there will be “greater enforcement” of federal prohibition of weed – that’s big news.
CC: Colo, Calif, Ore, Wash, Alaska…
— Matthew Nussbaum (@MatthewNussbaum) February 23, 2017
Notably, Spicer took care to differentiate between medical and recreational cannabis, indicating that enforcement actions would not target patients who are using the plant medicinally and legally under state laws. Spicer linked cannabis use to the abuse of dangerous opiates across the U.S., despite multiple reports that have shown medical cannabis laws can actually reduce the number of opioid overdose-linked deaths in a state.
When asked if federal enforcement would target companies who are currently working in the recreational cannabis space, Spicer said:
“I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it, because again, there’s a big difference between the medical use, which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was on how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different from the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”
The Department of Justice, however, is now run by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has historically condemned cannabis as a dangerous and addictive substance, despite endless evidence to the contrary, at one point even saying that he used to be “okay” with the KKK until he learned that some of their members smoked marijuana. Sessions did indicate during his confirmation hearings that, despite his personal beliefs, he would let President Trump take the lead in terms of any federal marijuana enforcement actions.
However, in an interview with Marijuana Business Daily, Massachusetts-based attorney Bob Carp displayed a more hopeful position. According to Carp, Spicer’s comments aren’t “that big of a deal.”
“This was a sound bite from him, from his playbook he’s been given,” Carp said. “[Spicer] doesn’t make decisions for the Department of Justice, he doesn’t make decisions for Donald Trump. All he does is report what he’s told to report, and this was essentially just a little snippet he was told to give when that question was posed.”
“I don’t think there’s any real platform that’s been adopted by the White House or the Justice Department yet with regard to enforcement of marijuana,” Carp told Marijuana Business Daily.
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