Trump and marijuana — the un-rosy scenario


few weeks ago I wrote a piece in this space (“Yikes! Sessions!,” Nov. 24, 2016) that listed some of the reasons why I thought Trump wouldn’t re-start the war on marijuana — despite the fact that he named Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a reefer-madness-obsessed crank, as his choice for Attorney General.

I argued that 1) Trump has said he thinks marijuana legalization should be left to the states, 2) Polling shows pot prohibition is an idea that’s long past its expiration date, 3) Attacking legalized marijuana will get Trump no supporters he doesn’t already have and will alienate a lot of potential new supporters he needs — like Millennials who overwhelmingly support legalization, 4) If Trump is serious about reaching out to Black America, a good way to start would be to quit arresting black people for marijuana, and 5) Trump hired Sessions because of his stands on immigration, not pot.

That’s the rosy scenario. Now for the un-rosy one.

Real Time host Bill Maher laid out the scenario from the dark side in a recent interview. The interviewer asked him if he thought there could be federal raids in the legal marijuana states under a Trump Administration.

“Don’t piss off your old dealer,” he replied. “ … you might have to do that again.”

Maher is dismissive of the idea that Trump is committed to states’ rights for pot legalization. He thinks that most people who support states’ rights, Trump included, do so for self-serving reasons and would have no problem supporting states’ rights in principle and a new federal war on pot in practice. He also thinks Trump’s “stated political position on anything should be afforded the same merit as a toddler’s answer to ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’”

He points out that the eight states that have legalized marijuana all voted for Clinton — and that Trump is a guy who holds grudges.

He maintians that while polling shows 60 percent of America may want legal marijuana, that’s no guarantee that it will get its way — “56 percent of the country wanted a president not named Trump.”

He also thinks that if it turns out Trump can’t stop illegal immigration, build a wall and bring back manufacturing jobs, “he’s going to need a new, easily-hated scapegoat to vilify to distract his low-information alt-right base,” and that “potheads” could easily fill the bill.

OK, Maher is the kind of guy who is frequently wrong but never in doubt.

But here are three other un-rosy scenario elements to go with Maher’s that trouble me more.

Trump has made a number of cabinet appointments besides Sessions who are anti-legalization — for example, Representative Tom Price of Georgia as Secretary of Health and Human Services. A cabinet with a strong anti-pot bias could influence Trump’s thinking on legalization, especially if he starts out as ambivalent on the issue, which he appears to be. And without strong direction from the president, guys like Sessions and Price could go rogue.

Trump is a teetotaler who lost a brother to alcohol and drug abuse. Some of the highest profile advocates of the drug war and opponents of marijuana legalization are rich and powerful men who lost children or siblings to addiction, like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Trump fits the profile.

Trump has promised to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S., a point he repeatedly raised in connection with building the wall on the southern border. From there it is a short policy step to cranking up the drug war again.

I still don’t think Trump will crack down on marijuana — both for the reasons stated above and because doing so would hand the Democrats an issue they could use to beat up both Trump and Republican congressional candidates in from now until 2018. But I could be whistling in the graveyard here.

The real indicator of Trump’s thinking on marijuana legalization and the drug war will be who he appoints as director of the DEA and Drug Czar (aka Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy).

If either of those worthies is as doctrinaire as Sessions on marijuana, then there is real cause for concern.

Tweets to come. 


  1. >>>”Trump is a teetotaler who lost a brother to alcohol and drug abuse.”

    But he didn’t lose him to marijuana. – If you’re saying Trump is so ignorant, he doesn’t know marijuana is near harmless, that’s the REAL problem.

    It’s helpful to consider the worst case scenario. – At worst, Sessions could close down stores and large commercial grows. – The feds cannot force state and local police to go against state law and arrest consumers.

    In the eight legal states (and to varying degree in the 28 medical marijuana states) it will always be legal to possess, consume, grow and give away small amounts of marijuana. – This is the form of legalization achieved in Washington, D.C.

    So, at worst, we would all be on the D.C. model for a few years. – Then, with the sky falling nowhere, restrictions on sales would gradually fade.

    It’s also encouraging to note that one of Trump’s transition team members is Peter Thiel. He is a major backer of the Marley Natural line of marijuana products.

    Here’s a way we can stand against Trump’s marijuana-hating appointments. — Please sign and pass it on!

  2. good article. other factors to consider are that if the feds crack down on MJ use/production, the administration essentially hands billions over to mexican cartels removing those funds from state-law-abiding citizens, while hurting a large national job creation engine and a new discretionary tax vehicle. why would they empower the cartels that will just create more problems for us (illegal immigration, crime, a higher prison burden, etc.) than overseeing and regulating a massive greenfield industry … tbd

  3. More than anything, the price of marijuana and the profits being made are what will cause the feds to halt recreational sales. The feds aren’t getting a cut, as they are with alcohol and tobacco. Here in Oregon, recreational prices are $15 per gram. A few years ago, decent medical bud was selling in dispensaries for as little as $2 per gram. Anyone who sells the stuff is breaking federal law in a major manner. Aside from the massive amount of cash that has been gained by breaking federal law (and that can be seized legally by the feds), the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is running the recreational program. Since the OLCC must absolutely comply with federal law to import, export, wholesale, and warehouse liquor, it must always follow federal law to the letter in order to operate on a day to day basis. If the feds ask the OLCC to shut down recreational operations, it will most definitely comply immediately. Also, everyone knows that the Cole memorandum provides no legal protection, and that it has most definitely been broken by every state where recreational cannabis is sold. Of course purchased cannabis has crossed state lines, and of course some people working with cannabis have firearms. Personally, I’d be most concerned if I was a business owner and also owned a firearm. One must also consider the fact that the Cole memorandum says that state agencies can be prosecuted, as well as individuals. In essence, the Cole memorandum could make legal situations drastically worse for any individual or business that has violated the eight rules. At least under a GOP administration. And you guys know that in 1996 Trump’s buddy Newt Gingrich introduced legislation that would impose the death penalty for importation of large quantities of illegal drugs, including marijuana, right? And do you know what happens to people in states like Alabama when they catch you selling marijuana? Time to wake up people. This is reality, this is your life. No reason to take risks just to make some cash.

  4. Can’t see Trump sending all those jobs to Mexico!!! That arguement alone should be convincing. Also sending all that cash now staying in recreational and medical states to the Cartels just feeds ‘narco-terrorism’ (whatever that is but conservatives seem to love that term).


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