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Trump Stance on Cannabis: In A Haze Part 1

When it comes to the stance the Trump administration is expected to take on marijuana enforcement, the outlook remains in a haze. But just because there are no straightforward answers doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of speculations, interpretations, and inferences based on what’s been said, and by whom.

We conducted our own examination to help uncover what actions may be expected by the Trump administration down the road.

  • Part one of our rundown touches on comments made by key players within the Trump administration.

  • Part two will look at the hype created from an underreported but nevertheless important private sector influencer.

Spicey Speculation

Wild speculations abound regarding the recent comments of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. When asked to comment on federal enforcement of marijuana for recreational use during the February 23rd White House Press Briefing, Spicer said it “is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.”

Some media outlets immediately took this as a firm indication that the Trump administration was ready to let feds bulldoze over states that legalized marijuana for recreational use. They made sure to also point out this was in full reversal of an official memo from the Obama administration that said the federal government would let states take the reins on the issue.

Another outlet cheered that Spicer’s comments were “welcome news for those advocating commonsense drug policy.” And still another decided to showcase Spicer’s comments in a headline that screamed how feds could increase enforcement against marijuana use in states – although it conveniently left out the part about “recreational” use in the headline.

While the stories may have made for great analytics in terms of unique page views, it had the unwanted side effect of creating wave of panic across the whole of the US cannabis industry - a panic we feel is likely to be unfounded. Spicer himself admitted the question would have been better directed to the DOJ, a sign he may have been caught completely off-guard.

As any good White House press secretary would do in such a situation, he didn’t leave the question unanswered. He qualified his impromptu response with “I think.” And he chose an answer that seemed like the safest route to take - medical marijuana is OK, recreational marijuana may not be OK - repeating it in every way he could as reporter after reporter followed up on the originally unexpected question.

Gnarly Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has consistently been tough on his stance about the need for federal laws to be enforced if they’re on the books, period. But he never said those books shouldn’t contain laws that legalize cannabis. Better yet, he actually seems to be obliquely hinting that efforts to legalize marijuana should be the realm of federal legislators, not state legislators.

With federal legislators at the marijuana law helm, it would make sense that lobbying money should perhaps find its way to them – instead of state lawmakers – if the cannabis wants favorable viewing. Again, Sessions never mentioned any of this specifically, although he did say his DOJ was reviewing the Cole Memo 2.0, an Obama era DOJ document that gave states flexibility in passing and enforcing marijuana laws. And the word is that off-the-record, Sessions has indicated to federal legislators from legal cannabis states that there would be no federal crackdown on it in those states.

But to the public, the matter is still in flux...and that is in part because of how influence is being wielded both publicly and behind the scenes.

Check back Monday as we delve into one such opinion-shaper to see how and why they're opposing legal weed.


Dan Ogden is a 20+ year veteran of the executive search industry, having covered operations, regulatory and consulting verticals within capital markets as well as data science, data analytics and, more recently, the cannabis industry within search firm and internal corporate HR leadership roles. Dan is Principal of the practice at Delta 9, the Western Hemisphere's' only dedicated cannabis industry executive search firm. To find out how Delta 9's proprietary, trademarked end-to-end recruiting methodology can help you find the key executives to make your company thrive and grow in the cannabis industry, shoot us an email, or give us a ring at 212.390.8190.


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