Questions Over Marijuana Policy in Trump Administration

By Michael Hill

The attorney general nominee – Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions — is no friend of marijuana legalization or reform.

“We need grown ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized. That it’s in fact a very real danger,” he said.

“It’s troubling that we still have elected officials who have this opinion,” said Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey Executive Director Ken Wolski said.

Marijuana legalization advocates are watching and wondering what kind of marijuana policy the Trump administration will grow. The president-elect has flip flopped on the issue, recently saying it’s a state by state issue and he supports medical use. But he called Colorado’s growing industry a “real problem.”

More than two dozen states and the District of Columbia allow some type of marijuana use. New Jersey permits some medical use.

“The states have been legalizing medical marijuana since 1996 and the Supreme Court has agreed with the right of the states to determine the practice of medicine. So I have no fear whatsoever that any attorney general is going to have any impact on New Jersey’s ability to expand its medical marijuana program, which it’s right in the process of doing right now,” Wolski said.

And here, supporters make social or recreational legalization seem like a foregone conclusion with a new governor in 2018. But supporters have concerns about the Trump inauguration next month and how much influence Sessions could wield on the new administration’s marijuana policy.

David Nathan said, “So far the only thing that has kept the federal government from interfering in the states that have legalized marijuana, or even medical marijuana, is the coal memo which was issued by the attorney general’s office a few years ago that said that as long as reasonable regulations are put in place — such as measures to prevents access by minors — then the federal government was not going to devote its resources to interfering with stat law. Unfortunately, the only thing that keeps any new administration from changing that is the stroke of a pen. They could vacate that memo and the next day they could begin cracking down.”

Opponents seem to think the Trump administration will see the wisdom of saying no to social or recreational legalization.

“I feel that the costs will greatly outweigh the benefits. When you take a look at something like 87 percent of youth in New Jersey that are being treated for some type of drug addiction marijuana is the primary drug that they have been introduced. So there’s a lot to think about,” siad Barbara Sprechman, Regional Coordinator of the Prevention Coalition of Mercer County.

But, could money be the ultimate determinant? The Tax Foundation reports there’s a ton of revenue for government to reap from legalization if the president-elect is not as law and order as promised.

“I think it is something where we need to find money in different ways, but if you look at some other things, like alcohol. For every dollar that’s spent in taxes about $10 or so is spent in health and social costs  — whether it’s treatment, accidents or anything like that. So marijuana the numbers could be slightly different, but when you consider the whole societal impact, what you’re bringing in versus what you’re spending, that needs to be taken into account,” Ian Smith said.

New Jersey is among the states expanding its use of medical marijuana, even with a Republican governor. But the future of legalization with a new president is in a cloud of speculation.