Donald Trump addressed the CPAC convention on Friday morning, where he boasted he was checking off his campaign promises, one by one, as they are completed. But there is one thing that looks like it is about to happen that received little attention during the campaign, and certainly wasn't part of his promises -- a crackdown on legal marijuana.
The Obama Justice Department had declined to enforce federal law on marijuana in states that had passed laws legalizing it but at his daily press briefing on Thursday, Spicer indicated that a renewed war on weed is imminent.
"I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it," Spicer said. He then indicated that medical marijuana will likely be safe from a crackdown. "That’s very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into."
New Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a longtime opponent of weed, to the point he once allegedly said that it was marijuana that turned him against the KKK. But right now recreational marijuana is legal in eight states and the District Of Columbia. Seventeen more states are working on legalization. And would you like to guess the main thing driving this legalization push? It's $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Sessions and Trump are threatening to dry up the cash cow, and it is very likely that states aren't going to stand for it.
The L.A. Times reports that Colorado brought in $200 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2016. Washington state did even better, raking in a cool $256 million. Other states have been eyeing the potential of pot for balancing tight budgets, allowing them to fund pet projects, repair crumbling infrastructure, pay for school improvements, etc.
Mary Washington, a Maryland state representative, said,
"Our focus is on revenue and bringing in cash to the state as legalization becomes more and more widespread."
Washington's comment explains exactly why the move to reform marijuana laws has gathered so many backers in state governments. Legalization has been gathering steam as more states decide to get on the bandwagon rather than risk losing tax money to neighboring states.
For years states have had to deal with increasing financial burdens due to federal program cuts. Now Trump is talking about further federal tax cuts, and states, many with budget shortfalls, are trying to figure out how to replace lost revenue. Legal weed seems to be the solution. And Jeff Sessions is about to come waltzing in with the stormtroopers to turn off the revenue tap. Republicans in Washington love to talk about "local sovereignty" and "states' rights" when it comes to things they approve of, but those ideas go out the window with issues like marijuana.
That is certain to not sit well with governors and legislatures who have been providing extra benefits and services to their constituents thanks to weed money. And it won't sit well with the general public in those states, either. Citizens in states like Colorado, where weed has been legal since voters approved it in 2012, have not seen an explosion of crime or other issues related to legalization. In fact, studies have found that crime drops after pot is legalized. So it will be very hard for Trump or Sessions to revive the "reefer madness" notion that marijuana users are lazy criminal dropouts who want to sit around and get high then go commit criminal acts. That is not the experience of an increasing number of Americans who live in localities where marijuana has been legalized.
A word of advice to Sessions and Trump: leave marijuana alone. A 2016 poll found that 1 in 8 Americans use weed. If you think the crowds at recent Republican town hall meetings have been large and angry, wait until you start locking up recreational marijuana users and challenging state marijuana laws. As the saying goes, "You ain't seen nothing yet."