Will Donald Trump’s Tough on Crime Policies Hurt Marijuana Reform?


Following the swearing in of anti-marijuana Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump quickly signed three law enforcement-related executive orders that were vague on specifics, but could signal how the new administration will govern over the next four years. Trump campaigned as a “touch on crime” candidate and his recent actions show that his administration will focus heavily on the need to “combat crime” even though the overall crime rate is relatively low.

Talking Points Memo summarizes the new executive orders:

First, Trump said, he was directing the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to “undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and other people, many other people.”


The second order, he said, would direct the Department of Justice “to form a task force on reducing violent crime in America.” Later he described it as a “task force on crime reduction and public safety.”

Finally, Trump said, he would direct the Department of Justice “to implement a plan to stop crime and crimes of violence against law enforcement officers.”

Donald Trump, for some reason, has exaggerated the crime rate of the United States, implying that cities are out-of-control wastelands ravaged by gang violence. While public safely certainly remains an issue, the overall crime rate is not near as high as Trump states, as Vox explains:

As president and a candidate, Trump has repeated the same false claim in front of his audiences: “The murder rate in the United States is the highest it’s been in 45 years.”

That would be very worrying if it were true. Thankfully, it’s not. At all.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the murder rate was 4.9 per 100,000 people in 2015, the latest year of data available. That is an 11 percent increase from 2014. But it is lower than it was in 1970, 45 years before, when the murder rate was 7.9. It was also lower than it was at any point from 1965 to 2009 — making the 2015 rate, at worst, a six-year high. And it’s half the rate of what it was 25 years ago, in 1991, and less than half of what it was at several periods in the 1970s and 1980s.

Criminal justice reform, especially the reduction of draconian sentences for nonviolent drug crimes has become a bipartisan issue in recent times and it would be great to see our nation move further away from Drug War policies that have decimated Black communities, creating New Jim Crow laws. However, with Trump’s rhetoric and appointment of Jeff Sessions, positive reform seems unlikely the next four years at the federal level, but we must continue fighting, especially on marijuana policy.

Cannabis legalization supporters need to rally around the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” introduced by Republican Dana Rohrabacher, and each and every positive reform measure introduced. We need to create such a groundswell of public support that doesn’t give the Trump Administration any choice but to respect the will of state voters that have ended cannabis prohibition within their borders. Respecting states’ rights is a conservative value that both Trump and Jeff Sessions should agree to in principle.

If the federal government is serious about hurting foreign drug cartels, the legalization and regulation of domestic marijuana markets have already proven to hinder a revenue stream of these cartels. If given the chance, the cannabis community will choose legal American-grown cannabis over illegal cartel grown weed every day of the week. Here’s hoping that Donald Trump is serious about hurting cartels and doesn’t go against his campaign promise to respect state marijuana laws. If Trump allows Sessions to target state-licensed marijuana businesses, he’ll be doing foreign drug cartels a favor and will only endanger our communities by emboldening criminals instead of helping U.S. entrepreneurs who want to follow the rules, pay their taxes and live the American Dream.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey.

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