Marijuana policy of the Donald Trump administration

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Marijuana (cannabis) and the rights of individual states to legalize recreational and medical marijuana was an issue of President Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and he formally stated during his campaign that he believed states should have the right to manage their own policies with regard to medical and recreational marijuana.[1][2]

Following his election, he reversed his position on recreational marijuana and stated he believed medical marijuana should be allowed but stated the federal government may seek legal resolutions for those states which regulate the growth and sale of recreational marijuana. [3][4]

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary stated at a news conference on February 23, 2017, "There is a big difference between the medical use … that's very different from the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into."[5] "There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. I think 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 to them. And that’s one that Congress, through a rider in 2014, put an appropriations bill saying that the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after those folks."[6]

Position on cannabis

Sign from a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California.

On February 23, 2017, Sean Spicer during a White House press conference stated that the United States Department of Justice may seek greater enforcement of marijuana legislation at the federal level against states who sponsor and distribute recreational marijuana.[7]

He went on to state that President Trump supports the legalization of medical marijuana for those who are suffering with a medical condition. Sean Spicer stated that the administration believed there was a link between recreational marijuana use and opiate abuse, despite the fact that current studies show the reverse and that marijuana use actually results in a lower incidence of opiate abuse.[8][9][3][4]

A signing statement on the 2017 federal budget was one of the first official statements on the administration's policies. In it, according to Bloomberg News, the President "signaled he may ignore a congressional ban on interfering with state medical marijuana laws". [10]

Response of the States

Cannabis laws in the United States1

  Jurisdiction with legalized cannabis.
  Jurisdiction with both medical and decriminalization laws.2
  Jurisdiction with legal psychoactive medical cannabis.
  Jurisdiction with legal non-psychoactive medical cannabis.
  Jurisdiction with decriminalized cannabis possession laws.
  Jurisdiction with cannabis prohibition.

1 Includes laws which have not yet gone into effect.
2 Mississippi has only legal non-psychoactive medical cannabis.
* Cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under federal law as of 2015.
* Some cities and Indian Reservations have legalization policies separate from their surrounding states.
* Cannabis is illegal in all Federal enclaves.

As of 2017, twenty-eight states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized it for recreational use as well.[11] On April 19, 2017, the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington sent a letter to the U.S. administration urging continuation of Federal policy under the Cole Memorandum.[12]

Washington state

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated Washington will defend its marijuana laws: “I will resist any efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the will of the voters in Washington state,” Ferguson said in an interview. On February 15, Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions stating that illegal dealing in the State of Washington has been replaced with a tax-paying regulated industry, and the move has freed up law enforcement officers for other duties. “Given the limited resources available for marijuana law enforcement, a return to ‘full’ prohibition’ is highly unlikely to end the illicit production, trafficking and consumption of marijuana,” said Ferguson and Inslee in the letter.[13][14]


Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron D. Ford called on the state’s attorney general to “vigorously defend” the state’s laws. “Not only did voters overwhelmingly vote to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana, the governor’s proposed education budget depends on tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales,” Ford said. “Any action by the Trump administration would be an insult to Nevada voters and would pick the pockets of Nevada’s students.”[14][15]


On February 24, 2017 Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon stated, “The federal government needs to respect the decisions of Oregon voters. Instead the Trump administration is threatening states' rights, including the rights of one in five Americans who live in a state where marijuana is legal.” He stated he would ask the state to oppose federal government intrusion into the state.[16]


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