Marijuana advocates and patients across the country breathed a sigh of relief last week when Congress chose to maintain a provision known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment by adding it to the federal budget that would be relevant until September. The amendment prevents the Department of Justice from spending money going after the medical marijuana industry in any state where it is legal. It protects the rights of state’s to create their own marijuana laws. Given that it is a plant that is known to be safer and healthier than prescription medication, cigarettes and alcohol, allowing states to manage their own laws regarding cannabis seems reasonable. But it seems that the Trump administration disagrees…at least today.
The Danger That Comes from a Schedule I Classification
As far as official federal laws are concerned, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, the highest risk classification, alongside heroin and LSD. This category is for illicit substances that are considered to have no medicinal purpose. There have been countless studies across the world proving marijuana’s powerful medicinal value but none that has been sanctioned by the U.S. government. Therefore, the federal government is not obliged to regard it as medicinally useful. There are bill proposals that are actively working to change this classification but, until that happens, there is an element of danger surrounding the marijuana industry.
A Matter of “Constitutional Responsibility”?
This danger was echoed by the words delivered by Trump when signing the budget of Friday. “Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories,” he reiterated while signing the statement. “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This basically implies that at any given time it may be his “presidential duty” to enforce federal law and ban all forms of marijuana.
Mixed Signals from the Trump Administration
The statement may just be a way for him to feel that he is the one in charge or it may imply some kind of action is being planned. Trump has never shown any true opposition to medical marijuana and during his election campaign he said he would allow states to manage their own marijuana laws. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a long time oppositionist, making statements like “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and calling it more dangerous than people think. He made statements earlier this year implying that a crackdown would be on its way but when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper went to talk to him, he was left with the impression that no crackdown would occur and the government had more pressing things to worry about.
Steve Bell, a senior advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center told Bloomberg News that it’s up to Congress to decide how taxpayer money is spent and called Trump’s statement “an extremely broad assertion of executive branch power over the purse.”
At any rate, it may have just been an assertion of power with no intent to cause problems for the marijuana industry. Time will tell how the Trump administration plans to handle the marijuana law. For now, it appears that the medical marijuana industry is safe.