Brace yourselves people… Sean Spicer said today that there may be increased federal enforcement on recreational marijuana. During the daily White House press briefing, a reporter from Arkansas got the first public marijuana comment out of the Trump administration.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave us something new to worry about after the reporter asked him this question;
“…Our state voters passed a medical marijuana amendment in November. Now we’re in conflict with federal laws, as many other states are. The Obama administration chose not to strictly enforce those medical marijuana state laws…With Jeff Sessions over at the Department of Justice as AG…What’s going to be the Trump administration’s position on marijuana legalization where it’s in state federal conflict like this?”
A calm (for now) Sean Spicer replied with this;
“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. Those 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 , put an appropriations bill saying that the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after those folks. There’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people. There’s still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”
Same Old Same Old
Spicer lost his cool and belittled reporter Glenn who was just trying to ask a question (*insert Melissa McCarthy here!*). “We’re gunna raise our hands like big boys and girls” he snipped. Who remembers when Trump referred to his administration as a ‘well oiled machine’? HAHA!
The next reporter that got a question wanted to touch on the same subject. When asked “will the federal government be taking action on recreational marijuana?”, Sean Spicer reinforced his previous answer by saying;
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it (recreational), because again, there’s 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.”
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is what protects medical marijuana in the United States today (for now!). The provision prohibits the Department of Justice from using government funds to prosecute individuals or businesses who are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
[click here to learn more about the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment]
Under Attorney Generals Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the previous Justice Department had commonly declined to contest state marijuana laws. Legal marijuana has been more widely accepted over recent years, and was able to expand thanks to President Obama’s administration.
Unlike medical marijuana, there isn’t any legal protection for recreational marijuana businesses. Marijuana, cannabis, weed, pot, bud, ganja, Mary-jane – whatever you call it, it remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the USA. This potentially means that any recreational businesses could be prosecuted by the DOJ! Sean Spicer seemed to suggest that the administration would be more hands-off towards medical marijuana.
Let’s not panic, no official plans have been announced by Trump or anyone else. This may be another passing comment by the new administration that goes nowhere. With the Mexican border wall, the Muslim ban, and transgender bathrooms to deal with, who has the time to deal with this?
Right after Donald Trump’s election, four more states [including California] voted to make recreational use of marijuana legal. This brought the total of entirely legal states to eight, with the medicinal use of marijuana legalized in 28. Will this new administration reverse years of progress?
Jeff Sessions holding such a negative opinion on weed in general does not help the situation. Sessions has even said “good people don’t smoke marijuana”. If he has any influence over Trump (which we assume he does!), it’s not looking good.
As for Sean Spicer likening recreational marijuana with an opioid epidemic, what is he thinking? Research increasingly shows that legalizing marijuana leads to fewer opioid induced deaths. The DEA just removed false information regarding health consequences of marijuana use, it makes no sense.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid induced deaths increased to over 33,000 in 2015. 2015 was also the first time that heroin overdose deaths exceeded deaths by gun violence. This is possibly the worst drug crisis in American history, and that’s saying a lot.
A report published in Health Affairs in 2016 reported that use of prescription pain killers dropped dramatically in states that offered medical marijuana as an alternative treatment.
This report studied all data from prescriptions filled by Medicare (Part D enrollees) between 2010-2013. Researchers discovered that an average of 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers were prescribed (per year) by doctors within states with the option of medical marijuana. There was even a link between legalized medical marijuana and a decrease in prescriptions for antidepressants, anxiety meds, and sleeping pills.
There IS a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction, Sean Spicer is right. Taking weed away from citizens is only going to worsen this epidemic sweeping the USA. Without marijuana, citizens with ailments or addictions have no choice but to turn to addictive prescription pain killers. It’s a vicious circle. Legal or not, Marijuana lessens the chances of opioid addiction, full stop.
It’s unclear what ‘greater enforcement’ would even mean. What happens to consumers or businesses that follow state laws? Will there be nationwide raids? Will Sean Spicer, or the President of the United States, the ‘great’ Donald Trump ever give a straight answer?
This could be a fleeting comment from Spicer, but it could be a glimpse into the future of recreational marijuana. Sessions will have the power to hammer down on weed, as soon as he gets the chance.
If the Trump administration does go after marijuana, expect an epic backlash and protests-a-plenty.