In a complete reversal from just two years ago, when the Obama administration was still in power, the Trump administration has announced a plan to crack down on legal marijuana states. White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, who recently announced his resignation for August, insinuated that the federal government is likely to begin “cracking down” on legalized recreational use based on federal law. This is directly perpendicular to Barack Obama’s stance of allowing each state to decide individually.
Despite making it clear that there was a plan underway to deal with recreational use, Spicer did clarify that the Trump administration respects the the many benefits medical marijuana stands to provide to patients with serious, terminal conditions like cancer.
Exactly what Spicer meant by “stepping up enforcement” isn’t known. Movement could range from as little as fines against known dispensaries to shutting down entire industries. This would be exceptionally difficult, given that 29 different states provide legal access to marijuana at this time.
Several members of the press queried the Supreme Court Justice on the matter after the announcements, but they received no response or clarification on exactly what Spicer meant.
What we do know is that such a move against the marijuana industry could potentially have devastating impacts on many state economies. Colorado, for example, generated $2.4 billion in GDP just last year on the marijuana industry alone. That’s bigger than the GDP for some small countries.
It also begs the question of whether states would even comply, given there’s so much at stake.
Some experts, including New York University (NYU) professor Mark Kleiman, believe that such a move would require removing the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that first allowed states to decide for themselves. While potentially possible, it would create “a mess” and be an extremely unlikely move for the government to make.
Kleiman clarified, saying “If a state doesn’t want to enforce its cannabis laws, the Federal government really cannot step into those shoes.”
Perhaps most important is weighing whether or not citizens even agree with such a move in the first place. A recent poll taken by Quinnipiac University showed that nearly 59 percent of all Americans believe in legalization, while a record-breaking 93 percent support medical marijuana.
The Trump administration may discover they’ve bitten off more than they can chew with this fight.