As the Trump administration readies itself to take over the White House, the marijuana industry is concerned about how president-elect Trump and his yet-to-be-confirmed U.S. attorney general will approach the state marijuana industry. Although Trump and his attorney general would have the power to devastate the industry, members of Congress believe the marijuana industry is here to stay.
In a special report by Marijuana Business Daily, U.S. representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, says the state-by-state marijuana reform approach to legalization will continue under the Trump administration.
"Candidate Trump was very clear that he thought the state-by-state reform should be allowed to continue," Blumenauer told Marijuana Business Daily. "States ought to be allowed what they want to do. He was very clear."
Blumenauer, who has been advocating for marijuana reform since the 1970s and is the founder of the Cannabis Caucus in the House of Representatives, assured the industry that although Trump has made many contradictory statements, he will most likely respect state's rights and the will of the voters, especially as many Trump voters also support marijuana legalization in some form.
"There's no way you can put this genie back in the bottle," says Blumenauer. "Marijuana got more votes than Donald Trump in every state where they were both on the ballot, and millions of Trump supporters voted to continue marijuana reform. So to keep their perspective, we are winning this battle, from coast to coast."
Blumenauer points out that public opinion on marijuana has shifted considerably over the years and the U.S. has passed a tipping point--marijuana is now a bipartisan issue and the overwhelming majority of Americans support both medical and recreational marijuana (although more Americans support medical than recreational).
"The marijuana industry is operating from a tremendous position of strength, and any hiccup is just that. It will be a temporary setback at most, and the public is not going to support rolling back what they have demanded and what they have voted for," says Blumenauer.
Blumenauer says even if Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama with staunch anti-marijuana views, is confirmed as attorney general this week, the industry still should not fear.
"Please bear in mind what I said," says Blumenauer. "This is something that they're not going to be able to roll back."
The idea that the whole industry, which spans 32 states with their own separate industries, could be dismantled because "one person in a position of authority doesn't agree with it is unlikely," says Blumenauer.
Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado, told Marijuana Business Daily that he feels the marijuana industry is safe under Trump. Worst-case scenario, Perlmutter says, is that there might be a "retrenchment" to medical marijuana only.
As for industrywide raids?
"I don't see raids and arrests and things like that. There are just too many states that have some level of marijuana use allowed in their state right now," says Perlmutter.
The assurances from Perlmutter and Blumenauer are comforting for marijuana entrepreneurs. Since Trump was elected, there has been widespread uncertainty about the future of the marijuana industry.
Public opinion has shifted in favor of marijuana, but Perlmutter and Blumenauer do not mention how the Trump administration and a new U.S. attorney will have the power to reverse all reform efforts.
To be clear, if senator Jeff Sessions is confirmed as U.S. attorney general (Sessions's confirmation hearing started Tuesday morning), he will have the power to turn back the clock on marijuana legalization, drug policy experts warn.
Back in November 2016, John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that if Sessions becomes U.S. attorney general, he would have the power to rescind the Department of Justice memos issued under the Obama administration that have allowed marijuana companies to exist without fear of DEA raids. (The Ogden and Cole memos assure the industry that federal law enforcement agents will not step in as long as businesses follow the rules and do not act as fronts for organized crime, do not sell to kids, and avoid other federal enforcement priorities.) If Sessions removes the memos, which are nonbinding, the industry should be afraid.
"Jeff Sessions could have an existential and devastating effect on the marijuana industry as we know it," said Hudak. "His views are opposed to reform and opposed to legalization."