Despite the fact that Congress recently passed a new spending bill that included a provision prohibiting the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency from interfering in states’ medical marijuana programs, the industry remains wary of President Trump’s administration and its stance on the drug.
When Trump signed H.R. 244 into law on May 5, he also issued a signing statement — a document containing his comments on the bill — that included notes on dozens of provisions in the spending bill, including an indication that the President might disregard the ban on federal medical marijuana prosecutions.
“I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he wrote.
According to The Washington Post, White House aides indicate that his objections don’t necessarily signal immediate policy changes. Nevertheless, considering Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attitude toward marijuana, advocates are uneasy: He’s said in the past that pot “is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny.”
“It just creates a lot of uncertainty, and that uncertainty is deeply concerning for patients and providers,” Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told WaPo. “We had thought medical marijuana wasn’t really in play in terms of a crackdown.”
The DOJ declined to comment on what steps it might take in the future regarding medical marijuana, but did acknowledge that the provision in the spending bill is on their minds.
“The Department of Justice must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives,” a spokesman told WaPo.
Again, this kind of talk from the administration doesn’t mean a crackdown is inevitable, notes Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, but it’s “a concerning signal.”
“Essentially [Trump is] saying he reserves the right to ignore this congressionally approved provision,” Angell said.
No matter what happens, the issue of medical marijuana will be in front of Congress again this fall, when the recently-passed provision is set to expire.