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Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire: Donald Trump Is a Threat to Cannabis Legalization

Personally, Donald Trump does not care about cannabis. Don’t take my word for it, go to the source, Trump’s Twitter account. Use Twitter’s “Advanced Search” options to search for whether Trump has used certain words and phrases on Twitter. As of August 14, 2020, I could only find one tweet from @realDonaldTrump that actually references the cannabis plant:

.@BillMaher needs to cut back on the pot, and maybe he will stop making offers he can’t afford.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2013

I searched his account for uses of the following terms:

  • Marijuana
  • Hemp
  • Cannabis
  • Weed
  • Pot

There were no mentions of marijuana, hemp, or cannabis. There were a few tweets where trump used the word “pot” and “weed” but in the context used, they had nothing to do with cannabis (e.g., “weed out”, “stir the pot”). The above dig at Bill Maher, from 2013, is the only reference in a Trump tweet and it was made 2 years before he declared he would run for President in the 2016 election.

Trump has retweeted twice regarding cannabis:

Since April, the @USCG and the @USNavy have stopped more than 94,000 pounds of cocaine and 9,200 pounds of marijuana from being smuggled into the U.S.

— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) June 10, 2020

How do you explain a House Democratic Party so crazy that their new $3 trillion proposal has 68 references to Cannabis and only 52 references to jobs? Maybe Speaker Pelosi of San Francisco believes “California Dreamin” could become the new national anthem.

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) May 14, 2020

Since declaring his candidacy in 2015 Trump has tweeted a lot, according to Trump Archives, a site that tracks the Commander in Chief’s Twitter activity:

Candidacy (June 16, 2015 – November 8, 2016) 7,794 15.2
Transition (November 9, 2016 – January 19, 2017) 364 5.1
Presidency, Year 1, first half (January 20, 2017 – July 19, 2017) 1,027 5.7
Presidency, Year 1, second half (July 20, 2017 – January 19, 2018) 1,576 8.6
Presidency, Year 2, first half (January 20, 2018 – July 19, 2018) 1,472 8.1
Presidency, Year 2, second half (July 20, 2018 – January 19, 2019) 2,146 11.7
Presidency, Year 3, first half (January 20, 2019 – July 19, 2019) 2,814 15.6
Presidency, Year 3, second half (July 20, 2019 – January 19, 2020) 5,151 28.1
Presidency, Year 4, first half (January 20, 2020 – July 19, 2020) 6,014 33.2

Between the start of his term on January 20, 2017, and July 19, 2020 Trump has tweeted 20,200 times. He has shaped foreign and domestic policy through Twitter, as indicated in this report by the New York Times, or as Trump likes to tweet, the Failing New York Times. None of those tweets touch on cannabis and his only retweets that mention cannabis are negative, highlighting marijuana confiscated at the border and criticizing Democratic leaders for including marijuana provisions in legislation.

Trump has occasionally commented on marijuana but not in any definitive way. We summarized his views in September 2019, noting the lack of social media statements as well, in grading him, on pot policy. Here is our conclusion:

Grade: D+

Stance on marijuana: Donald Trump’s stance on marijuana is unclear. He has expressed support for medical marijuana as well as for allowing states to decide whether to legalize or not. As president, however, his rhetoric and actions have flip-flopped.

I would classify Trump’s stance on cannabis as indifference leaning to dislike, but do not let that fool you into thinking the status quo is safe. Trump has shown that his administration is no friend to marijuana. To understand this, let’s frame the issue of how federal law on marijuana would change as it relates to the presidency.

The executive branch has the power to execute the laws of the United States. In contrast, the judicial branch interprets those laws and the legislative branch creates them. Congress created the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. The Act gives authority to the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to add or remove a substance from a given schedule. The Attorney General and Secretary of DHHS are both cabinet positions, which means that they are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The President then has the power to remove these cabinet members.

For the purpose of the Controlled Substances Act, the Attorney General delegates its power to the DEA and the DHHS delegates its power to the FDA. The President can also appoint the heads of the DEA and FDA.

These agencies, the Office of the Attorney General, DHHS, DEA and FDA are all integral parts of the legalization process. Trump has been president for nearly four years and although he hasn’t said much or tweeted anything about marijuana he has appointed some staunch opponents to these key positions.

Attorney GeneralJeff Sessions absolutely hated marijuana and made numerous public statements to that effect. He hated marijuana so much that he once joked that he liked the KKK until learning they smoked marijuana. Sessions was incompetent and was unable to do much damage to the marijuana industry, but he did rescind the Cole Memo during his short time in office before being replaced by Bill Barr.

Barr is the opposite of Jeff Sessions when it comes to marijuana. He made few public statements and during his confirmation hearing, seemed to be reasonable regarding marijuana policy, though he did not endorse marijuana. He has done more damage than Sessions though, investigating marijuana businesses for what appear to be bogus allegations of antitrust violations.

HHS Secretary Tom Price was appointed as the head of HHS before he was canned for using tax dollars to fund his vacations. Prior to that, he was an ardent opponent to cannabis legalization, voting against the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendments and voting against allowing VA doctors to recommend cannabis to veterans. Current Secretary Alex Azar has warned about the dangers of marijuana even stating that “there really is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

DEA Administrator – Rather than talk about one particular leader of the DEA (although Chuck Rosenberg would be a fun place to start), I’d rather focus on the fact that the current acting head of the DEA Timothy Shea asked for an expansion of the agency’s jurisdiction in response to the killing of George Floyd. Pretty much every head of the DEA has been bad on marijuana reform, but under the Trump administration, the DEA has become more dangerous for all Americans, regardless of marijuana use.

If you just look at Trump comments on marijuana is not that different than Joe Biden, who we gave a D on policy. We also graded Kamala Harris, giving her a B overall but she’s got a complicated record on cannabis as well. Honestly, complicated is putting it lightly and Biden is the architect of the tough no crime legislation of the 1990s but these two are clearly the better candidates on criminal justice reform. Plus, the Democratic hopefuls for Biden’s cabinet are likely to be much better on cannabis reform than anyone selected by Trump. I mean, imagine AG Elizabeth Warren at the helm of the Department of Justice. I know that the Democratic Party’s official platform for 2020 does not include cannabis legalization, which is a disappointment. But do not let this fool you, Joe Biden is a much better choice for President if you are only looking at cannabis as a benchmark. It’s not close. Trump is dangerous for America.

The post Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire: Donald Trump Is a Threat to Cannabis Legalization appeared first on Harris Bricken.

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