“Greater enforcement” of federal law against marijuana is coming. During a Thursday press conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration plans to use current laws to crack down on state-run recreational marijuana programs, even including communities that have decriminalized the drug.
“I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, as cited by USA Today. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”
Spicer did not mention any specific timeline or details about how the government will curb recreational marijuana but intends to leave medical marijuana alone. According to the Washington Post, his comments suggested that the surge in opioid overdoses in the past few years is due to recreational marijuana use, implying that cannabis is a doorway to more powerful and dangerous drugs like heroin.
“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”
Spicer’s announcement sparked a fiery reaction from marijuana legalization advocates. Per the report from the Washington Post, the National Cannabis Industry Association’s executive director, Aaron Smith, says there is no evidence to support marijuana is a “gateway drug.”
“Science has discredited the idea that marijuana serves as any kind of gateway drug, and the addiction and death rates associated with opioids simply do not occur in any way with cannabis.”
As of yet, there is no confirmed scientific backing that links marijuana to increased opioid overdoses. Conversely, recent research suggests marijuana use actually decreases the rate of opioid abuse and overdose deaths.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at 10 years of fatality data and found overdose rates were 25 percent lower in states with legal medical marijuana than those without such laws. Another study, conducted by Columbia University, found fewer opioid-related fatal car accidents occurred in states that allowed medical marijuana. The researchers concluded that wherever medical marijuana is legal, “fewer individuals are using opioids.” In addition, the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine says there is no substantive link between weed use and the abuse of other drugs.
While the Obama administration left state marijuana programs alone, cannabis possession for purposes other than research is officially illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal law classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, a category reserved for dangerous drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
Spicer’s comments coupled with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ anti-marijuana position could put the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry in jeopardy. In the past, Sessions has remarked that he intends to use the AG office to destabilize and shut down cannabis markets.
However, President Trump has not provided any clarification on how the new administration will approach marijuana legalization, except some brief comments mentioning it should be left up to the states to decide. Yet, President Trump believes there is a definitely a difference between using cannabis for therapeutic purposes versus recreational, according to Spicer’s comments during the press briefing.
“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.”
A recent survey released by Quinnipiac University revealed 71 percent of Americans oppose the federal government interfering with state marijuana laws. The same poll showed 93 percent of voters support medical cannabis and 59 percent want marijuana legal for any purpose.
Despite “saber rattling” by the administration, most weed advocates believe the marijuana legalization trend is unstoppable at this point. New Frontier Data, a company that tracks weed businesses, estimates the cannabis marketplace will create more than 250,000 jobs and reach $24 billion in sales by 2020.
“I think after the feds learn how well-regulated Washington’s adult use and medical cannabis markets are, they will leave it status quo,” said Ian Eisenberg, a weed retailer in Seattle.
If Sean Spicer’s comments about the Trump administration directing the Justice Department to crack down on states with legalized marijuana hold true, it will create havoc in the cannabis industry and shut down thousands of growers, distributors, and related businesses. Currently, Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California have legal recreational marijuana.
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