During his press conference on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether the Trump administration plans to crack down on states like Colorado and Washington that have legalized recreational marijuana.
Spicer signaled that the Trump administration will break with the Obama administration’s policy of not enforcing federal law criminalizing marijuana in states that have taken a different approach.
“There are two distinct issues here — medical marijuana and recreational marijuana,” Spicer replied. “Medical marijuana — I’ve said before that the president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs including medical marijuana can bring them.”
But when the topic turned to recreational marijuana, Spicer conflated it with opioids and indicated the Trump administration is equally opposed to people using it.
“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in some the states in the country, the last we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature. So, I think there is a big difference between medial marijuana which the states where it’s allowed… have set forth a process to administer and regulate that usage, versus recreational marijuana and that’s a very, very different subject.”
Spicer appears to have just compared recreational marijuana to the opioid crisis in America pic.twitter.com/0h4CyzXFjZ
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 23, 2017
In response to a follow-up question about whether “the federal goverment [is] going to take some sort of action around this recreational marijuana in some of these states,” Spicer said that while it’s “a question for the Department of Justice,” he does think “you will see greater enforcement of it.”
Spicer’s comments don’t bode well for those who support relaxing marijuana laws. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is staunchly anti-marijuana — he said last year that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and called Obama-era drug policy reforms a “tragic mistake.”
His comments also represent a break from what Trump said during his campaign, when he said, “in terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”
— Brandon Rittiman (@BrandonRittiman) July 29, 2016
But the Trump administration’s inconsistent interpretation of which issues are states’ issues and which are federal was on display during other parts of Thursday’s news conference.
In a statement sent to ThinkProgress, Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell cited a Quinnipiac University poll that was released Wednesday and shows 71 percent of Americans oppose efforts to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized it.
“If the administration is looking for ways to become less popular, cracking down on voter-approved marijuana laws would be a great way to do it,” Angell said. “On the campaign trail, President Trump clearly and repeatedly pledged that he would leave decisions on cannabis policy to the states. With a clear and growing majority of the country now supporting legalization, reneging on his promises would be a political disaster and huge distraction from the rest of the president’s agenda.”