People are asking all sorts of questions in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory last week. Among them, many are wondering how he’ll approach cannabis.
At the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule I illegal drug. But it’s becoming legal in more states. In fact, last week eight out of nine states voted yes to new cannabis laws. That was a huge victory that gave 1 in 5 American access to legal marijuana.
So how will Trump react to these changes? What’s his take on cannabis? And what will his presidency mean for the legalization movement?
What Trump Has Said About Cannabis So Far
Let’s start by looking at what he’s actually said about cannabis. And to do that we’ve got to back to long before he ever started running for president.
Back in 1990, he called U.S. drug laws “a joke.” He also said that legalizing drugs would be the best way to “take the profit away from these drug czars.”
This year, while on the campaign trail, he gave medical cannabis his approval. He spoke on the issue during an interview with GQ Magazine.
“Legalized marijuana is always a very difficult question,” he said. “For medicinal purposes and medical purposes, it’s fine.”
So from the sound of it, he seems to like the idea of medical cannabis. And that’s a great start. But it doesn’t say anything about his take on recreational pot.
In fact, there was still some confusion on this topic during his campaign. At one point, Bill O’Reilly asked him about recreational cannabis.
He told the talk show host, “I would want to think about that one Bill because in some ways, I think it’s good and in some other ways, it’s bad.” Definitely not a yes, but at least it’s not a flat-out no either.
What About States’ Rights?
Trump may approach the question of cannabis by focusing on state’s rights. That’s actually what he said at a rally last year in Reno, Nevada.
“Marijuana is such a big thing,” he said at the event. “I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Trump’s wait-and-see, leave-it-up-to-the-states approach to cannabis legalization could go either way. It could pave the way to letting legalization happen one state at a time. This would also allow each state to figure out how it wants to regulate legal cannabis, and what sort of rules to implement.
But this approach also fails to change anything at the federal level. And that could be an even bigger problem.
The Current State Of Cannabis
Trump’s presidency comes at a turning point in the movement to legalize cannabis. California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts all voted to legalize recreational pot. And Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Montana all passed medical cannabis initiatives.
These victories reflect growing popular support for cannabis. One survey this year found that 89% of Americans support medical marijuana. And 54% support recreational use as well.
But so far, the federal government has not responded to this support. Cannabis is still a Schedule I drug, defined as extremely dangerous with no medical uses. And earlier this year, the DEA refused to reclassify marijuana.
This seems to be the main question confronting Trump. He said he supports medical cannabis. And he’s voiced support for state’s rights to set their own marijuana laws.
But he’s also representing the Republican Party. And the GOP decided not to support cannabis as part of its official platform.
The Final Hit
As long as cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, it will be hard for any fundamental changes to happen. It will leave the door open for feds to raid legal dispensaries and bust people for growing their own plants—even in states where it’s legal.
With all that said, however, the legal cannabis industry doesn’t seem too worried at this point. And that’s a good sign.
“It’s something that we’re definitely looking at,” said a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project. “But we’re not currently concerned.”
“Our strategy is not going to change all that much from what I can tell. Like everyone else we have to wait and see what happens.”