Trump Signals Support for States to Determine Marijuana Policy

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By Michael R. Blood

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Donald Trump said that he was inclined to support a bipartisan effort in Congress to ease the U.S. ban on cannabis, a proposal that would dramatically reshape the nation’s legal landscape for marijuana users and businesses.

FILE – In this April 20, 2018 file photo, an attendee hoists a flag during the Mile High 420 Festival in Denver. President Donald Trump said Friday, June 8, 2018, that he’s inclined to support a bipartisan effort in Congress to ease the U.S. ban on marijuana, a proposal that would dramatically reshape the nation’s legal landscape for pot users and businesses. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

The federal ban that puts marijuana as a Schedule I drug, on the same level as LSD and heroin, has created a conflict with about 30 states that have legalized the drug in some form, creating a two-tiered enforcement system at the state and federal levels.

The legislation would ensure states have the right to determine the best approach to cannabis within their borders, but some U.S. restrictions would remain, including sales of non-medical marijuana to people younger than 21.

The proposal introduced Thursday, June 7, 2018, has support from members of Congress from both parties, including Colorado Republican US Sen. Cory Gardner.

FILE – In this Jan. 22, 2018 file photo, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., left, speaks to the media after attending a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators on day three of the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump said Friday, June 8, 2018, he’s inclined to support a bipartisan effort in Congress, co-sponsored by Gardner, to ease the federal ban on marijuana. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

“I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing,” Trump told reporters in Washington, DC, when asked about the legislation. “We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

The president’s remarks Friday, June 8, 2018, placed him in conflict with his own Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who staunchly opposes marijuana. He lifted the Cole Memorandum, an Obama administration policy, and freed federal prosecutors to more aggressively pursue cases in states that have legalized marijuana.

Asked about the measure in an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Sessions said, “We’ll see how far it goes and how much support there is. … My view is clear: The federal law remains in effect nationwide, just as it does for heroin and cocaine.”

The proposal’s prospects in Congress were unclear.

Gardner, who heads the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, is close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican has consistently opposed legalizing marijuana but has called hemp and marijuana “two entirely separate plants.”

FILE – In this April 20, 2018 file photo, Patrick Bettis, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., a promoter of marijuana legalization, hands a joint to Larnell Rhea, of Denver, during the Mile High 420 Festival in Denver. President Donald Trump said Friday, June 8, 2018, that he’s inclined to support a bipartisan effort in Congress to ease the U.S. ban on marijuana, a proposal that would dramatically reshape the nation’s legal landscape for pot users and businesses. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

The bill would change the definition of marijuana in federal drug law to exclude industrial hemp, which like marijuana is part of the cannabis plant family but doesn’t contain the THC that gives pot users the high. Hemp produces non-intoxicating cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), that have become a health rage and a lucrative crop in Kentucky and other states.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a co-sponsor, said momentum was building in the House but “we just need Republican leadership in Congress to get on board or get out of our way, and for Trump to keep his word.”

Despite his comments, Trump has sent mixed signals on the drug: While campaigning for president, he pledged to respect states that legalized marijuana, but he also has criticized legalization and implied it should be stopped.

“I don’t think anyone would make a bet on the long-term validity of an offhand remark by the president that he ‘probably’ would support something,” said Kevin A. Sabet, head of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a nonpartisan group opposed to marijuana legalization. “I think he’ll find out soon from … victims of marijuana addiction and impaired driving that this is not as popular as Cory Gardner is leading him to believe.”

Trump’s remarks Friday echo a promise that Gardner said he received privately from the president in April to support legislation protecting the marijuana industry in states that have legalized the drug.

“My legislation is in line with what President Trump said on the campaign and what he and I have discussed several times since he was elected,” Gardner said in a statement Friday. He welcomed the president’s “continued interest in an approach that respects the will of the voters in each state.”

Another co-sponsor of the measure, Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said in a statement that Washington “needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”

California, home to one in eight Americans, launched the nation’s largest legal marijuana marketplace on Jan. 1 but thousands of businesses that have been licensed are still facing the threat of federal prosecution.

A major problem stemming from the federal ban: Major banks have been reluctant to do business with marijuana companies, fearing it could lead to prosecution. In California, for example, paying taxes and other transactions are often done in cash, sometimes in vast amounts.

The bill includes language intended to address financial issues caused by the federal ban.

Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver, Kevin Freking in Washington and Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon, contributed.


Blood is a member of AP’s marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter.

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13 Comments

  1. Don’t get all excited. This is the guy who one minute is all lovey-dovey and the next minute slice-and-dice. I’ll believe it when I see it.

      • He’s untrustworthy. And nothing he says can be taken on face value. Action says more than words. And he is truly the lazyest of people. So nope, he deserves nothing, least of all credit. Oh, and he likes to take kids from their parents. So he can go fuck himself.😀

    • He’s untrustworthy. And nothing he says can be taken on face value. Action says more than words. And he is truly the lazyest of people. So nope, he deserves nothing, least of all credit. Oh, and he likes to take kids from their parents. So he can go fuck himself.😀

  2. Money. It’s all about the money. If he supports it, it’s because big businesses is backing it, likely tobacco companies

  3. Well I can’t say he won’t he has been keeping I’ll say most of his campaign promises,he needs to get that dude that looks like granny from the Beverly Hillbillies out of there, he’s clearly living in the era of burning witches another words he’s behind in the times and his time should be up,you know Jeff Sessions,we’ll just have to wait and see,But I believe that a president that was going to be impeached should have had his policies looked over after he resigned and was pardoned i.e. Nixon,and they should of examined how dangerous marijuana isn’t,and also if they would of studied it maybe we would be much further along medically,and anybody that wants to whine about sobriety better start looking at the prohibition of alcohol and what happened when the will of the people wouldn’t bend,and they should look at the fact that if marijuana was legalized nation wide we most likely could completely wipe out the illegal growing from the Mexican drug cartels that like to set deadly traps in are forests and worse.It sounds like a no brainer to me.

  4. I am leery of a government that is uneducated and/or just plain greedy. Tobacco doesn’t kill? Alcohol doesn’t kill? Marijuana saves lives! It is NOT a narcotic! Send Sessions to Israel and give him an education! He knows nothing of these matters. He’s NO scientist.

    People are suffering. Legalize it on a Federal level. My state is not going to legalize it. GA is too ignorant and bible thumping to comprehend the benefits of cannabis.

  5. yeah. and we are going to believe a pig who has put 11,000 kids in PRISON ,blames it on Dems and the Bible.. HE WOULD ONLY DO THIS TO PISS OFF THE LYNCHER-SESSIONS OR BECAUSE HE’S MONEY GRUBBING SCUM. do not believe a WORD HE UTTERS. HE IS PURE EVIL.

  6. RANDY GARCIA on

    IT WILL HAPPEN!! I was against pot and conditioned to believe it was as HORRIBLE as heroin, LSD, cocaine, etc.. I’m 50 yrs. young and suffer EVERY DAY with back pain, sciatica pain, neuropathy, RLS, sleep apnea etc. all from a back injury. long story short after several attempts to find right potency I now use edibles, vape CBD/THC products. I was wrong about marijuana! DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY IT!! IT HELPS ME!! THANK YOU MARIJUANA GROWERS ET AL

  7. Glad we are mostly all on the same page. So HOW does the opposing opinion always prevail?
    I’m Tired…

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