In the hours since news broke that President Donald Trump struck a tentative deal with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) over future legislation protecting states that have legalized marijuana from federal intervention, there’s been a lot of feedback from advocates and political analysts. Experts react to Donald Trump’s action to protect medical marijuana…and not all are eager to show optimism.
One such analyst, former Trump campaign strategist Roger Stone, described the deal—first reported by The Washington Post—as a “historic agreement,” which ought to “put an end to the insidious efforts by [Attorney General Jeff Sessions] to undermine the right presidential decision [to protect legal marijuana states],” in a text message to High Times.
Sessions, a staunch prohibitionist who has maintained that cannabis is a dangerous drug deserving of its Schedule 1 status under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), rescinded an Obama-era Justice Department memo that ensured certain protections for legal marijuana states in January, causing concern among legalization advocates and members of the cannabis industry who worried that such a move indicated a possible crackdown on marijuana businesses in legal states.
“The president became aware of efforts by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that contradicted the president’s stated position during the 2016 election that he believes that the states should determine whether cannabis should be legal,” Stone told us.
“The president made it clear that he supported the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Attorney General Sessions’ actions repealing the Cole memo—for which I applaud the Obama administration—directly contravenes the president’s position.”
It’s true that, during his presidential campaign, Trump assured voters that he would respect state rights when it comes to cannabis policy and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana.
In an email to High Times, a Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson declined to comment as to whether Sessions was briefed on reported discussions about extended federal protections for legal marijuana states.
“We applaud this commitment from President Trump, who promised during his campaign to take a federalist approach with regard to marijuana policy, NORML director Erik Altieri wrote in a blog post Friday.
“That campaign promise was not reflected by Trump’s appointment of longtime marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney General or any of the actions that Sessions has taken since becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer.”
Altieri continued: “With the President now reiterating this commitment, it is time for Congress to do its part and swiftly move forward bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion. Doing so would not only follow through one of Trump’s campaign promises, but it would codify the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”
In a statement Friday, Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, noted the “tremendous amount of uncertainty from this administration regarding cannabis and how federal laws would be enforced against states that have lawful medical cannabis programs.”
But Sherer continued: “If the President intends to support a federalism-based solution, we are ready and willing to continue our efforts of ensuring that patients can access the medicine they need through robust state programs.”
Tom Angell, founder of the pro-legalization advocacy group Marijuana Majority, told us that while “some are reacting to this news with defeatist pessimism and saying Trump can’t be trusted based on his track record, and others seem to be eagerly acting as if we’ve already won, neither of those are helpful postures.”
“The reality is this is hugely positive, but it’s going to take focused, hard work and pressure from a growing movement to make sure words become reality,” he said.
“NCIA commends Sen. Gardner for supporting his constituents and the legal cannabis industry by leading on this important issue,” Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director of NCIA told High Times.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to bring legislation respecting state cannabis laws to the president’s desk.”
“It’s long past time that we modernize federal marijuana laws by bringing them into harmony with the 29 states that have some form of legal cannabis,” Smith said.
Kris Krane, president and co-founder of 4front, a group that promotes progressive marijuana legislation, said that it was “encouraging to hear that President Trump has agreed to a legislative solution that would protect state legal cannabis businesses and uphold the overwhelming will of the voters in those states,” in a press release Friday.
“Hopefully other senators and representatives will follow Senator Gardner’s example by making the sense of their state’s marijuana laws a priority for their federal agenda.”
Gardner, who vowed to reject Justice Department nominees in the wake of Sessions’ decision to rescind of the Cole memo, appears to have made headway influencing the president’s cannabis policy stance.
“Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees,” Gardner said in a press release.
“My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk to deliver on his campaign position.”
No legislation has been made official at this time, but Stone said he’s confident this latest development signals that the president is committed to following through on his campaign promise, despite Sessions’ obstinance on the issue.
“Many, many legislators have tried to temper Sessions,” Stone told us. “One congressman said his one-hour meeting with the AG degenerated into a harangue, and that the AG is obsessed with turning back the clock on marijuana.”
“I do feel the actions of the [pro-legalization advocacy group] US Cannabis Coalition have been effective with the president and that the president’s heart is in the right place.”
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