Did the future of marijuana legalization just go up in smoke?
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that he expects states to be subject to “greater enforcement” of federal laws against marijuana use, a move that could undermine the growing number of districts moving to legalize the drug for recreational purposes.
“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,” Spicer told reporters.
Spicer, speaking at a White House press briefing, said that President Trump sees “a big difference” between use of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreational purposes.
Spicer said that state’s allowance of marijuana for recreational purposes “ is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.”
As of the beginning of the year, seven states and the District had adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. In 2013 — as states took up the issue of legalizing marijuana — then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo reiterating that the Justice Department would continue to enforce federal drug laws.
But Cole said that in places that legalized marijuana, federal officials should look to the regulatory systems of states to determine whether they should intervene.
In states with robust systems, Cole wrote, federal officials should continue to leave the matter to local law enforcement. But states without such systems might face challenges from the federal government, he said.
Cole said the federal government’s priorities would include preventing distribution of marijuana to children and preventing cartels from getting their hands on revenue from marijuana sales.
Advocates of liberal marijuana laws have eyed the arrival of Attorney General Jeff Sessions with unease. The former Republican senator from Alabama has a long track record of speaking out against marijuana use.
Do you think this is bad news for the national legalization of marijuana?