In a recent statement, President Trump said he might ignore Congressional protections for medical marijuana states. The move has created confusion about how he will approach cannabis.
Trump Vs. Congress
Last Friday, Trump signed off on a federal funding bill. He also issued a “signing statement.” In it, Trump objected to a list of provisions. Congress put many of them in the bill as a way to limit the president’s power.
But Trump claimed that he does not need to follow these limits and restrictions. In particular, he said he would ignore limits on his ability to make military decisions. He said he would do the same when it comes to limits on how he handles international agreements.
Trump also said he might ignore “provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender.” And finally, he said he may reject rules about medical marijuana.
Currently, 29 states plus Washington, D.C. have medical cannabis. But all forms of cannabis remain illegal at the federal level. The spending bill included provisions to protect these states.
In particular, it said that federal funds cannot be used to interfere with state laws about medical marijuana. But Trump said he might ignore that rule.
Does This Signal A Crackdown On Medical Marijuana?
Trump’s statement has created confusion. For many analysts, the entire thing looks like a power grab.
“It is the constitutional prerogative of the Congress to spend money and to put limitations on spending,” said political adviser Steve Bell. “This is an extremely broad assertion of executive branch power over the purse.”
Beyond that, it’s also created confusion about how Trump is going to deal with cannabis. During the campaign, he said he was open to the idea of using weed for medical purposes.
In one interview he said, “Legalized marijuana is always a very difficult question. For medicinal purposes and medical purposes, it’s fine.”
But since moving into the White House, his position has seemed less open to the idea. For example, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there could be “greater enforcement” of federal cannabis laws.
Then in March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke out against weed. He said cannabis is “only slightly less awful” than heroin. He also said that medical marijuana “had been hyped, maybe too much.”
Yet even as he railed against medical cannabis, Sessions also suggested he would protect state’s rights to legalize medical marijuana.
“The Cole memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice . . . much of which I think is valid,” Sessions told a group of law enforcement officials.
The Cole Memo was issued in 2013. It argued that the federal government cannot interfere with states that want to legalize medical cannabis.
The Final Hit
Trump’s signing statement has created confusion about medical marijuana. In the past, he said he supported it. Similarly, Attorney General Sessions said he would continue to follow the Cole Memo.
But on the other hand, many of Trump’s picks for top positions are outspoken opponents of cannabis. And Trump’s Press Secretary said to watch out for a coming federal crackdown. Now, Trump himself suggested that he might ignore rules designed to protect medical marijuana states.