President-elect Donald Trump shocked the world last night by defeating Hillary Clinton to become the forty-fifth president of the United States. Virtually every pollster and prognosticator (myself included) got the election wrong, as a vast majority of the polls had predicted a Clinton victory. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, did a masterful job orchestrating the biggest political upset since Harry S. Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in 1948.
Now that California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine have legalized cannabis for all adults and Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota have joined the majority of states with legal medical marijuana, the cannabis community needs to ensure that our momentum continues under the upcoming Trump Administration. With such strong victories, the wind is at our backs, but we certainly can’t rest on our laurels.
So how will President Donald Trump deal with cannabis legalization?
If we can trust the public statements of Donald Trump, he will maintain President Obama’s policy of allowing states to implement their own cannabis policies, without federal interference. I am on record as believing that Trump has exhibited too much of an authoritarian nature to blindly accept that he won’t allow federal action against state-legal marijuana providers.
One reason to distrust President-elect Trump on cannabis policy is that he has flip-flopped on many issues, including drug policy. Another reason to be wary is the chance that he will have law-and-order types like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie in his cabinet. Christie would be the most troubling, as he’s gone on record as wanting to prosecute state-regulated marijuana businesses. The prospect of an Attorney General Chris Christie has decreased significantly as his Bridgegate scandal should severely hinder his chance of a successful Senate confirmation.
What next for the cannabis community?
As usual, the cannabis community will need to continue fighting hard for progress at both the state and federal level. It is imperative that all of the legal cannabis states implement sensible rules that work effectively and provide good examples for the rest of the nation. Successful legalization programs will create more legalization laws across the United States. Our progress has been mostly carried by the states and that won’t stop.
Theoretically, the cannabis law reform community should be in better shape than ever in congressional support. Advocates have achieved unprecedented success in recent years and newly legalized states, for both medical and recreational usage, will add new federal representatives that should be inclined to represent the will of their constituents.
Cannabis legalization advocates will need to continue mobilize and organize for congressional lobbying, but also to influence Trump’s appointments, especially the Attorney General, Drug Czar and head of the DEA. Very importantly, we need the future Trump Administration to continue President Barack Obama’s federal policy of non-interference of cannabis cultivators and providers operating legally under state law, as laid out in the Cole Memo. The Cole Memo could be discarded and replaced with a new policy or trashed altogether. In addition to an official policy, it is also important that Congress continues to pass budgetary restrictions on using any federal funds to prosecute people complying with their state’s medical law.
Trust, but verify?
It is hard to trust any politician, but the cannabis community should take President-elect Trump at his word on cannabis policy AND hold him to that word. After securing the top priority of eliminating the threat of federal law enforcement intervention, advocates need to continue to work towards passing provisions that fix the cannabis industry’s banking and tax issues. Passing a law to explicitly prevent funds from being used to target cannabis businesses following their state’s recreational law must be at the top of our list of priorities as well.
The ultimate goal of ending federal prohibition seems unlikely to me under a Trump Administration, but it was likely to be a long shot under Hillary Clinton’s first term as well. Whether Trump is re-elected or not, the cannabis community can continue to make strides at both the state and federal level that makes it very likely the federal government de-schedules cannabis within the next 5 to 10 years.
Regardless of our next president, cannabis prohibition’s days are numbered, we just need to continue our electoral successes. A lot of people are fearful of the future Trump presidency, and I certainly share in those fears, but I know that cannabis legalization is inevitable so long as we demonstrate the truth about cannabis-that regulation is much better than prohibition. And the the truth shall set us free.