As the year lurches closer and closer to November, Donald Trump’s
campaign for the Republican nomination continues to gain steam. Trump
has a reputation as a political outsider who breaks from the GOP
establishment, and he’s known for saying and doing unpredictable things.
There are plenty of issues where his stances are unclear. Particularly,
Trump’s opinions on medical marijuana have received little to no press,
especially compared with his outspoken positions on issues like
immigration and trade. With a Trump candidacy looking more likely with
each primary, we should put some serious thought into what this wildcard
candidate’s stance might be.
What Is Trump’s Opinion on Medical Marijuana?
Part of the problem with predicting the position a Trump administration
would take regarding medical marijuana is that Trump himself has
substantially changed his opinions on several issues over time. He has a
reputation in the political press for changing his
on issues as varied as abortion, ISIS and others.
with the Miami Herald in 1990, Donald Trump said he was in favor of
legalizing all drugs for adults. However, he announced at the 2015 CPAC
that he opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.
But regarding medical marijuana, he’s been more uniformly positive. At
that same conference, he said he is "100 percent" in favor of medical
marijuana, and he also reiterated
at a 2015 political rally.
Despite the mercurial nature of Trump’s opinions, it appears that he’s
relatively constant about the merits of medical marijuana and how to
enforce federal laws surrounding it. Still, we should keep a close eye
on any opinions the candidate might voice, just in case.
Chris Christie as Attorney General?
With former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s recent endorsement of
Donald Trump, pundits have speculated that Christie is jockeying for a
in a Trump administration. While it’s possible that Christie’s trying to
become Trump’s vice presidential pick, there’s been ample speculation
that he’s leaning toward a position as Attorney General – especially
given his previous experience as US Attorney for New Jersey. Since the
attorney general heads the Department of Justice and makes essential
decisions about prosecution and the federal government’s legislative
authority, whom the president chooses as his attorney general has a
major impact on how federal marijuana laws are enforced.
Christie generally takes a very strong
against marijuana legalization on a state level. If he were to become
President Trump’s attorney general, it’s likely that he’d seek to pursue
strict federal enforcement of existing marijuana laws. However, while
the attorney general is a powerful figure, the attorney general works
for the president, and carries out the administration’s policies. Since
Trump’s position on medical marijuana is more moderate than Christie’s,
it’s possible that Attorney General Christie could soften his stance on
marijuana, especially medical marijuana.
The Importance of States’ Rights
Political conservatives in the United States have a strong record of
supporting the states’ rights to decide policies about certain social
issues, including abortion and gay marriage. The traditional
conservative stance has been a strict construction of the 10th
Amendment, saying that any powers that are not strictly enumerated by
the federal government are left to the states to decide.
However, the legality of medical (and recreational) marijuana has
the GOP field this election season. Some GOP candidates have expressed
their support for states deciding and enforcing their own marijuana
policies, while others have said that various states’ policies
surrounding marijuana are illegal vis-a-vis federal law, and that
federal law should be strictly enforced.
But further complicating the issue is the fact that a large part of
Trump’s appeal to voters is that he doesn’t follow conservative
orthodoxy. Trump leaves many of American politics’ traditional
left-right distinctions behind. If Trump were to take office, would he
tow the standard conservative line, and leave medical marijuana
decisions up to the states? Or would he follow suit with many of the GOP
candidates, and reject the legality of medical marijuana? Thus far, it
appears that he generally sides with medical marijuana patients (and
against recreational users), but only time may tell.
This early in the race, it’s difficult for us to say exactly how things
will pan out. It’s not clear that Trump will become the Republican
nominee. It’s not clear who he’ll choose as his attorney general, or
where Chris Christie would fit into a Trump cabinet (if anywhere). And,
of course, Trump’s own positions are frustratingly vague to many
political observers. On several major issues, he’s regularly changed his
stance, just during this election.
Generally, Trump seems to support medical marijuana prescription and
usage. This is, tentatively, good news for medical marijuana patients,
who use cannabis for conditions as
glaucoma, chronic pain, migraines, anxiety and more.
But the tens of thousands of individuals in the US who rely upon this
drug shouldn’t rest easy. With so much uncertainty surrounding this
election — and the positions of the GOP frontrunner — it’s important
to stay on top of the issues. Patients, caretakers and advocates should
educate themselves about candidates’ stances on medical marijuana use,
as well as the legalization, regulation and taxation of recreational
marijuana. The US political arena is rapidly changing, especially
surrounding drug legalization, and if we educate and mobilize voters and
concerned citizens, we can make a huge difference for good.