Donald Trump’s election on Tuesday as the next U.S. president has left proponents of both recreational and medical marijuana wondering about the industry’s future after he takes office this January. In addition, the passing of four initiatives in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana (California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine), along with medical marijuana in four states (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota) indicates that the pro-legalization trend is nowhere near slowing down—at least at the state level.
Free initial consultations are available for potential clients: Call (888) 458-0991
So what does a Trump presidency mean for the marijuana movement? Much of what the next four years may look like for the industry could depend on one person: whomever Trump selects as Attorney General.
The A.G. is considered one of the four most important presidential cabinet positions. As A.G., Trump’s appointee will head the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees the Drug Enforcement Agency and its policies. The A.G. also acts as both the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer for the United States government. Although the president selects this individual—and may dismiss him or her at any time—the nominee must also be confirmed by the Senate to get the position.
Under the Obama administration, the D.O.J. and D.E.A. took a hands-off approach to states that were effectively regulating marijuana post-legalization and also elected to not prosecute individuals who complied with their states’ laws. In fact, the Ninth Circuit recently held that individuals in compliance with their states’ regulations were shielded from the federal government’s interference. However, with a new A.G., that policy could quickly change.
While Trump has not yet publicly indicated who he plans to appoint, two names have been heavily circulated in the media: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Both appeared on stage with him during his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning.
Unfortunately for proponents of marijuana legalization, neither Christie nor Giuliani is in favor of ending its prohibition. In fact, each has been vocal about his anti-marijuana stance.
During his campaign for the Republican party presidential nomination in 2015, Christie called marijuana users “diseased,” and he vowed to go after adult-use (recreational) marijuana states, such as Colorado and Washington, if elected:
“I will crack down and not permit it,” Christie told CNN last April. “We need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.”
Furthermore, both Christie and Giuliani have spoken out against medical marijuana, which is now legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C. In 2014, Christie publicly criticized his home state of New Jersey’s MMJ laws:
“What there’s a huge demand for is marijuana – not medical marijuana,” he announced during his monthly radio show. “This is a fallacy. This program and all these other programs, in my mind, are a front for legalization.”
However, Christie’s involvement in the controversial Bridgegate scandal may present problems for him insofar as Senate confirmation is concerned, which, for now, may make Giuliani the more achievable candidate for the A.G. role.
Like Christie, Giuliani has expressed a heavy skepticism about the medical marijuana industry. During his campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, for example, Giuliani addressed the issue at a town-hall-style meeting in New Hampshire:
“I believe the effort to try and make marijuana available for medical uses is really a way to legalize it,” he said. “There’s no reason for it.” Instead, Giuliani recommended pain medications, which he called “much superior to marijuana.”
While both Christie and Giuliani appear to be the most likely candidates for the A.G. slot, Trump has also said that, if elected, he would highly encourage placement of individuals from the private sector into key cabinet roles.
There’s also the chance that, regardless who gets the A.G. position, cracking down on marijuana may simply not be a priority for the incoming president and his administration.
Trump himself has said that he supports medical marijuana, and on the campaign trail he suggested rescheduling it from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance. However, his positions on various issues throughout the campaign were not known for their consistency, and marijuana was no exception.
In short, while it’s too early to tell what the future holds for marijuana under a Trump presidency, the current A.G. candidates don’t look promising. The good news, however, is that the recent election results may send a resounding message to the incoming Trump administration: the majority of Americans want marijuana to stay.
LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR CALIFORNIA BUSINESSES
Proposition 64 allows non-medical marijuana to be sold by licensed businesses, giving the state until January 1, 2018 to start issuing sales licenses. If you own a marijuana business, or are interested in starting your own marijuana business, we encourage you to speak with one of our marijuana business attorneys. With more than 20 years of experience, we help entrepreneurs and businesses remain compliant with all industry rules and regulations. Contact Cantafio & Song PLLC to learn how we can help your business grow.