Will Donald Trump Finally End the Federal War on Cannabis?

The idea that Donald Trump, of all people, could be the man who removes the yoke of federal illegality from marijuana use and sale is laughable. This is a guy who appointed Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as his Attorney General, a man so anti-marijuana that he makes Harry Anslinger look like Bob Marley. However, Trump recently seemed to offer a sliver of hope that he would finally end the ridiculous federal war on weed.

What Did Trump Actually Say?

When you read the headlines regarding Trump’s latest iteration on weed, it is easy to think “maybe he will really do it this time.” Then, you read his actual quotes, and it becomes a case of ‘the same old story.’ Admittedly, it isn’t easy to analyze anything he says because he doesn’t so much color outside the lines as he throws up all over them.

In any case, when Trump was asked about Senator Corey Gardner’s STATES Act, he said: “I support Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.” There are a couple of troubling things with that statement. First, the word ‘probably.’ Second, the assertion that he knows what Gardner is doing.

It is far more likely that Trump doesn’t have an earthly clue what the STATES Act is, or what it entails. Remember, this is a man who believed that Frederick Douglass was still alive!

Well, What IS the STATES Act?

In early June 2018, Senator Gardner, Senator Elizabeth Warren, David Joyce, and Earl Blumenauer introduced a bipartisan bill entitled: Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act. If passed, it will exempt marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) which has classified weed as a Schedule I substance since 1970.

It would enable every state to either make cannabis legal or illegal as they see fit. It would also remove the possibility of Sessions sending in his stormtroopers to arrest every user and dispensary employee in the United States. Gardner was keen to point out that the bipartisan bill would not automatically make marijuana legal in the U.S. Colorado residents would continue to enjoy weed as before while it would remain illegal in places such as Nebraska unless state law changes.

Here is a quick overview of what’s in the STATES Act:

  • The CSA is amended as long as tribes and states comply with basic protections.
  • It states that compliant weed transactions do not constitute trafficking so cannabis companies would find it easier to deal with banks.
  • Industrial hemp is also removed from the list of CSA controlled substances.
  • It is illegal for minors to work in marijuana operations and such organizations will still be prosecuted for endangering human life while creating weed.
  • Cannabis is still illegal to distribute at truck stops, rest areas, and other transportation safety facilities.
  • Aside from medical purposes, the act forbids the sale of marijuana to anyone below the age of 21.

Historians amongst you will remember that the 10th Amendment relates to state’s rights and the STATES Act would ensure that this aspect of the Constitution is upheld somewhat. The act does not eliminate federal influence, as you can see with the provisions regarding the age of users and transportation facility distribution. The act also extends its protections to American territories and federally-recognized tribes.

For & Against

As is the case with every single piece of legislation, the STATES Act has a significant number of proponents and opponents. Along with bipartisan backing in the Senate, powerful groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Conference of State Legislatures support the act. It is the single most comprehensive piece of marijuana-related legislation ever seen in Congress.

You can probably guess the groups that are against the act. Sessions said he was not present in the meetings at the White House and can’t guarantee that people who use or sell weed are protected from federal prosecution. The National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, the defender of killer opioids, hilariously claimed that the act “attempts to encourage more drug use in America.” The Coalition meant to say the act ‘threatens our profits.’

Groups such as the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Law Enforcement Action Network, National Sheriffs’ Association, and the National High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Directors’ Association, all co-signed the Coalition’s ludicrous statement.

What is Trump Likely to do?

The simple answer is that neither he nor anyone else has a clue. Given the support the STATES Act now has, we could be confident of it making its way into law if there was a different president. Unfortunately, it is relying on the support of a man who is seemingly incapable of adopting a position and sticking to it. Trump has repeatedly spoken out against marijuana use in the past, interspersed between periods when he seemed ambivalent about its existence.

Given his recent problems with Sessions, it isn’t beyond Trump to go ahead with the STATES Act simply to irritate his Attorney General. On the other side, he has shown nothing but contempt for Warren in the past, including his infamous ‘Pocahontas’ jibe, so Trump could turn against the act to get back at her.

Trump is a man who changes his mind with the weather, but unfortunately, it is more than likely that he will revert to type and adopt the ultra-conservative position, especially since it is held by all the usual corporations. To get Trump’s support on anything, it is crucial to massage his ego and make him think you like him. It seems unlikely that pro-cannabis advocates are capable of doing this.

Ultimately, it is best for the United States if the STATES Act makes it into law. There is demand for cannabis in every state. In places where it is legal, demand is met by law-abiding companies. In states where it remains illegal, shady black market practices, and all the dangers they are accompanied with remain the norm.

Of course, only time will tell if what we want to happen will actually happen. Things have generally been trending positively in terms of marijuana legalization, and we hope to see this curve maintain its upward trajectory.