In mid-February, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the Trump administration would bring a fight to states where the sale and use of recreational marijuana are legal. Washington state is having none of it, with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson saying that he will defend the laws of his state.
The new administration’s focus on cracking down on legal marijuana supply is a stark contrast to the Obama administration. In the past, President Barack Obama stated that he would not bring a fight to any states that had legal marijuana markets, providing they kept them tightly regulated.
Obama agreed that recreational marijuana should be legal providing the states stuck to the laws laid out by the U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole. His memo indicated that it should be fine, providing marijuana was not sold to minors and steps were taken to ensure that the money from the sale of recreational marijuana was not filtered back into criminal gangs. Washington State has extreme vetting procedures in place to ensure that the latter does not happen.
The current administration’s focus on the crackdown on marijuana sales is a far cry from the platform on which President Trump campaigned. While on the campaign trail, he stated that he was okay with the use of medical marijuana. He went on to claim that the recreational sale of marijuana should be something left in the hands of the state and the federal government should play no role in it.
Earlier on in February, both the Washington Attorney General and Governor submitted a letter to U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions highlighting why Washington state should continue to have a regulated marijuana industry.
Their arguments are that the regulated industry is likely to earn the state an additional $272 million in taxes this year. The fact the police are no longer needing to ‘crack down’ on marijuana dealers, and smokers also help to free up the time of the police officers operating across the state. This allows police officers to focus on more pressing crimes.
Ferguson argues that a return to ‘full’ prohibition in the state would not stop marijuana being consumed. Instead, it is likely that the illegal consumption of marijuana will result in even more problems. The state does not have enough resources at its disposal to deal with this.
Washington State introduced the legalized possession of marijuana and selling it in November 2012. 56% of voters believed that this would be the best course of action. Since then, the state, along with other states that introduced legal marijuana consumption, has always been in a state of ‘worry’ as to whether the federal government would snatch the law away from them.
The sale and use of marijuana are still against federal law. As long as the law remains on the books, the states are going to be dealing with threats like this. It is unlikely that the Trump administration will make marijuana legal on a federal level.