President Trump has issued a statement referencing a provision that stipulates federal funds not be used to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
Friday’s signing statement, which was attached to the $1.2 trillion omnibus bill passed by Congress this week, asserts presidential constitutional authority on issues of war powers, marijuana and government spending.
The bipartisan spending bill, hailed as a “clear win” for the American people by Trump, provides funding for the federal government through September 30, averting a feared government shutdown.
It reauthorized language of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment and prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to prevent states “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
According to Trump’s Friday signing statement:
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. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
Drug Policy Alliance Deputy Director Michael Collins says the signing statement sends “mixed messages” on marijuana.
“[The] signing statement cast[s] doubt on whether his Administration will adhere to a congressional rider that stops DOJ from going after medical marijuana programs,” Collins said. “The uncertainty is deeply disconcerting for patients and providers, and we urge the Administration to clarify their intentions immediately.”
It’s the language of the statement that Collins finds disconcerting, but Trump’s assertion that he will treat the medical marijuana provision “consistently with [his] constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” may be a reference to the 10th Amendment.
According to the 10th Amendment, “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Until referencing the spending bill provision in the signing statement, Trump has kept quite about the issue of marijuana during his presidency. During the the GOP primary race however, he consistently maintained that marijuana policy be left up to the states.
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” Trump told the Washington Post in October. “Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen. . . and then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
He also told Bill O’Reilly that he supported medical marijuana in February.
“[I’m] in favor of medical marijuana 100%,” Trump said. “I know people that have serious problems and. . . it really does help them.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has affirmed that he may attempt to crack down on marijuana, calling for a return to the “Just say no” era of the drug war. He has also argued that medical marijuana has received too much “hype.”
“I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” Sessions said last month. “Dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial, I acknowledge that, but if you smoke marijuana, for example, where you have no idea how much THC you’re getting, it’s probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount. So forgive me if I’m a bit dubious about that.”
Following the passage of the federal spending bill, pot advocates rejoiced that Sessions’ Department of Justice would be blocked from messing with medical marijuana. Trump’s signing statement has made the community less sure that the measure will be upheld however.
Only time will tell what approach the Trump Administration takes toward enforcement of federal marijuana prohibitions. During President Barack Obama’s first term, 270 federal raids were conducted on medical marijuana dispensaries and nearly $300 million was spent on marijuana enforcement in states that had already legalized medical use of the drug, according to Americans for Safe Access.
As it currently stands, 29 states have codified some form of medical marijuana legalization into law, and eight states have legalized recreational use.