Trump to Back Federal Cannabis Reform, Says Congressman
Federal cannabis reform will be a new priority for President Trump’s administration after the midterm elections, according to House Representative Dana Rohrabacher.
Speaking to Fox Business, Rohrabacher said that the Trump administration will make a “solid commitment” to amend cannabis regulations. “I have been talking to people inside the White House who know and inside the president’s entourage... I have talked to them at length. I have been reassured that the president intends on keeping his campaign promise.”
Although not quite a “campaign promise” as the Californian representative put it, while running for office Mr. Trump did publicly agree that states should be able to pass laws permitting the use of marijuana despite federal prohibition.
“The marijuana thing is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so,” the then presidential nominee said in 2015.
Despite the president’s soft commitment, the congressman’s words indicate a turning point for the White House’s attitude to the federally prohibited drug. In August of this year, Buzzfeed News obtained documents that showed how the current administration was covertly gathering a committee of federal agencies to combat public support for cannabis and cast state legalization measures in a negative light.
The White House itself has yet to comment on its potential reform plans.
A congressman’s cannabis promise
“I would expect after the election we will sit down, and we’ll start hammering out something that is specific and real,” Rohrabacher said during his interview with Fox Business.
A representative of California, Rohrabacher has significant experience in pushing for cannabis legalization and regulatory reform.
A sponsor of the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 and co-sponsor of progressive acts such as the Veterans Equal Access Act and the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, Rohrabacher has been instrumental in granting Californians the access they now have to cannabis products.
Taking note of his actions, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws rated the representative an A+ in its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. He was the only Republican in the House of Representatives to receive this highest grade.
Speaking on the successful passage of the Medical Marijuana Amendment in 2015, the representative said, “This impressive vote is deeply gratifying. It shows the people’s representatives really can reflect the overwhelming sentiment of Americans to do the right thing. Too many patients, for too long, have suffered under a regime that encourages doctors to prescribe opiates rather than the cannabinoids they deem much safer and more effective.”
Of course, nationwide legalization has been a contentious issue for decades. But, according to Rohrabacher, this will soon change.
“It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session,” he said speaking to Fox Business.
The congressman is also up for re-election in the November mid-term vote.
The Trump administration’s attitude to cannabis reform
Like many of the President’s statements, his administration’s stance on cannabis legalization has inconsistencies.
In February of 2017, the then White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, suggested that the administration would enforce federal cannabis laws in states that allow recreational use.
"There is still a federal law that we need to abide by...when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature," he said during a White House press briefing.
He then added, "I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement of it."
This hard stance was followed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in January 2018 rescinded three Obama-era memos that paved the way of non-interference with states that have legalized recreational cannabis.
Most recently, Buzzfeed News reported that the White House’s internal Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee instructed 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about cannabis and the “threats” it poses to the country.
Several memos secured by the news outlet revealed that the committee members were intolerant to the emerging positive perception of the drug.
“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” says a summary of a July 27 meeting of the White House and nine departments.
One meeting summary stated that “Staff believe that if the administration is to turn the tide on increasing marijuana use there is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.”
However, despite this apparent White House agenda of enforcing federal prohibition, President Trump has shown his support for a bipartisan bill, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act and protect states that legalize cannabis from federal interference.
When asked in June of this year if he supported the bill, which was filed by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and Republican Senator Cory Gardner, the President said, “I really do. I support Senator Gardner.”
“I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it,” he continued. “But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
What will happen after the mid-term election?
House Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s recent remarks only add to the confusing stance the Trump administration has on cannabis legislation.
If accurate, we may soon see a stark shift in the White House’s approach to the federal prohibition of cannabis and perhaps even steps towards wider legalization.
However, any legislative change could well be dependent on the political make-up of the House of Representatives, Congress and the Senate.
The Mid-term election will take place on the 6th of November, 2018.