Last November, marijuana reform made drastic strides forward. 4 more states legalized medical marijuana and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana. Along with this win though came some troubling news for marijuana advocates across the country. Donald Trump was elected president and he nominated Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. Sessions has been a long time marijuana opponent, once saying, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” While Trump said numerous times during the election that he would allow states to manage their own marijuana laws, advocates have been nervous by the presence of Sessions in the Trump administration.
Confusing Opioids with Marijuana
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, spoke out on Thursday, saying that we will most likely see the White House crack down on recreational marijuana. He linked the country’s prescription opioid crisis to marijuana, despite the fact that all states that have legalized marijuana have seen a drastic reduction in opioid addiction and opioid related deaths. “There’s a big difference between (medical marijuana) and recreational marijuana, and I think 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,” says Spicer. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and drugs of that nature.”
Distinction Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana
Recreational marijuana has been legalized in 8 states and Washington D.C. This means 20 percent of the country has ended prohibition. Over half of the country currently has medical marijuana but Spicer seems to be making the distinction that the federal government will be cracking down on recreational marijuana. He expressed that Trump was sympathetic to the fact that medical marijuana can help those suffering with terminal illnesses. In June of 2015, Trump did say that he felt strongly about recreational marijuana being a “bad” thing but, as his campaign went on, he declared that marijuana law should be decided by each state and not the federal government.
The Federal Stance on Marijuana
Marijuana remains illegal on a federal level as the DEA have refused to reclassify or declassify the plant, despite strong requests from lawmakers and citizens alike. It is still classed as a Schedule I drug which puts it in the same category as heroin and LSD as one of the most high risk drugs. The Schedule I classification also means that, at least as far as the government is concerned, marijuana has no medicinal purpose. Until recently, all marijuana research that would explore its medical benefits has been unsupported by the federal government. Last August, they agreed to come up with a process so that researchers can now apply to study the plant, although they haven’t made it easy to get approval.
According to the most recent polls, 60 percent of the country is in favor of recreational marijuana legalization so any back steps on the issue will create public concern. Only time will tell how this unfolds. Until then, advocates will continue on their path towards ending prohibition and allowing the people of the country to enjoy both the medical and recreational benefits of marijuana.