When it comes to marijuana policy president Trump seems to be on both sides of the issue, which is not an uncommon thing when it comes to public policy and Trump. Many times in the past he expressed support for cannabis reform and states rights. However, since taking office he has given mixed signals.
One of the most telling things about how Trump really feels about cannabis policy could possibly be found in who he surrounded himself with in his administration, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions being at the top of that list. Jeff Sessions is easily one of the biggest cannabis opponents in the country, having made it clear on numerous occasions that he opposes cannabis reform at all costs.
Jeff Sessions despises cannabis so much that he once even supported handing down the death penalty to those caught dealing cannabis. Per Salon:
In 1996, when serving as Alabama’s attorney general, he promoted H.B. 242, S.B. 291, a state bill to establish mandatory death sentences for a second drug trafficking conviction, including for dealing marijuana. His support for the bill was reported at the time by several local newspapers, as well as The Alabama Lawyer, the Alabama State Bar’s official publication. The Alabama Lawyer described the bill as part of a legislative package that Sessions and then-Governor Fob James proposed to “fix a broken system.”
That type of public policy is alarming, to say the least, but before people brush it off as ‘being a long time ago’ consider the fact that a report surfaced yesterday in which Donald Trump has been described as sharing the same belief that drug dealers should be subject to the death penalty. Below are excerpts from a report from Axios that was published yesterday:
In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for drug trafficking offenses. And President Trump loves it. He’s been telling friends for months that the country’s policy to execute drug traffickers is the reason its drug consumption rates are so low.
He often jokes about killing drug dealers… He’ll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.’
According to five sources who’ve spoken with Trump about the subject, he often leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty.
Those excerpts should make your stomach cringe. Individuals such as Chijioke Stephen Obioha have been executed for trafficking cannabis in Singapore. In the Philippines, individuals are often not even afforded due process, and instead killed by the government on sight. In China, people caught trafficking cannabis also face possible execution.
In the Axios article, Trump was portrayed as saying that he didn’t think that the death penalty for drug trafficking was likely something he could successfully get implemented in the United States, but the fact that he even has a desire to do so is shocking and appalling. Adding to that the fact that his Attorney General also has the same belief that drug dealers should be executed (or at least did at one time) makes the situation that much more scary.
What do these recent comments say about the direction that federal cannabis policy is headed? Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, so anyone who is trafficking cannabis is subject to possible federal prosecution, even those that are operating legally from a state standpoint. I am not trying to paint a doomsday scenario for the cannabis industry, but anyone who thinks that the Trump administration is guaranteed to never go after anyone in the industry is building their views on wishful thinking given the mindset of the president and his staff.
This should serve as an alarming reminder that the battle to end cannabis prohibition continues and that no one should be complacent. I don’t think that people need to take ‘the sky is falling’ approach either, but we must remain vigilant in our pursuit to get all of America on the right side of history, as well as the rest of the world.