Cannabis policy of the Donald Trump administration

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Marijuana (cannabis) and the rights of individual states to legalize recreational and medical marijuana was an issue of President Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and he formally stated during his campaign that he believed states should have the right to manage their own policies with regard to medical and recreational marijuana.[1][2][3] Following his election, he reversed his position on recreational marijuana and stated he believed medical marijuana should be allowed but stated the federal government may seek legal resolutions for those states which regulate the growth and sale of recreational marijuana.[4][5]

Position on cannabis[edit]

2-23-17 White House Press Briefing

On February 23, 2017, Sean Spicer during a White House press conference stated: that the United States Department of Justice may seek greater enforcement of marijuana legislation at the federal level against states who sponsor and distribute recreational marijuana.[6]

He went on to state that President Trump supports the legalization of medical marijuana for those who are suffering with a medical condition. Sean Spicer stated that the administration believed there was a link between recreational marijuana use and opiate abuse, despite current studies that show the reverse and that marijuana use actually results in a lower incidence of opiate abuse.[7][8][4][5]

Spicer said: "There is a big difference between the medical use […] that is very different from the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into."[9] "There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. I think medical marijuana, I’ve said before, that the president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through, who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them. And that’s one that Congress, through a rider in 2014, put an appropriations bill saying that the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after those folks."[10]

A signing statement on the 2017 federal budget was one of the first official statements on the administration's policies.[11] In it, according to Bloomberg News, the President "signaled he may ignore a congressional ban on interfering with state medical marijuana laws".[12]

On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded three Obama-era memos that had adopted a policy of non-interference with states that have legalized recreational marijuana, including the 2013 Cole Memorandum.[13] On April 13, US Senator Cory Gardner (R - Colorado) stated that Trump reaffirmed his commitment to upholding the rights of states to regulate cannabis within their associated jurisdictions and assured states with legalized cannabis that the rescission of the Cole Memo would not subject them to federal prosecutors, after Gardner threatened to block the appointment of 20 DOJ nominees in response to the memo's rescission.[14]

In June 2018, President Trump stated that he would "probably" support the STATES Act, a bipartisan bill which would effectively end the federal prohibition on marijuana and leave the issue up to the states.[15][16]

Response of the states[edit]

Map of cannabis laws in the US
Legality of cannabis in the United States
  Legal for medical use
  Legal for medical use, limited THC content
  Prohibited for any use
  D  Decriminalized
· Includes laws which have not yet gone into effect.
· Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under federal law.
· Some Indian reservations have legalization policies separate from the states they are located in.
· Cannabis is illegal in all federal enclaves.

As of 2019, thirty-seven states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Michigan, and Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized it for recreational use as well.[17] On April 19, 2017, the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington sent a letter to the U.S. administration urging continuation of Federal policy under the Cole Memorandum.[18]

Washington state[edit]

In response to the February 2017 announced crackdown, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated Washington will defend its marijuana laws: “I will resist any efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the will of the voters in Washington state,” Ferguson said in an interview. On February 15, Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions stating that illegal dealing in the State of Washington has been replaced with a tax-paying regulated industry, and the move has freed up law enforcement officers for other duties. “Given the limited resources available for marijuana law enforcement, a return to ‘full’ prohibition’ is highly unlikely to end the illicit production, trafficking and consumption of marijuana,” said Ferguson and Inslee in the letter.[19][20]


Responding to the February 2017 announced crackdown, Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron D. Ford called on the state’s attorney general to “vigorously defend” the state's laws. “Not only did voters overwhelmingly vote to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana, the governor’s proposed education budget depends on tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales,” Ford said. “Any action by the Trump administration would be an insult to Nevada voters and would pick the pockets of Nevada’s students.”[20][21]


On February 24, 2017 Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon responded to the intended crackdown, stating, “The federal government needs to respect the decisions of Oregon voters. Instead the Trump administration is threatening states' rights, including the rights of one in five Americans who live in a state where marijuana is legal.” He stated he would ask the state to oppose federal government intrusion into the state.[22]


  1. ^ "Pot Matters: Trump on Marijuana – High Times".
  2. ^ "7 Reasons Trump Is Unlikely to Fight Legal Marijuana".
  3. ^ Johnson, Jenna (October 29, 2015). "Trump softens position on marijuana legalization". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Mali, Meghashyam (February 23, 2017). "White House hints at crackdown on recreational marijuana".
  5. ^ a b Williams, Trey. "Expect 'greater enforcement' of marijuana laws under Trump, Spicer says".
  6. ^ "Spicer: Feds could step up enforcement against marijuana use in states".
  7. ^ Lee, Kurtis. "Here's what's driving lawmakers working to legalize recreational pot in 17 more states".
  8. ^ Simmons, Kate McKee (February 23, 2017). "Trump Spokesman Predicts Greater Enforcement of Federal Marijuana Laws".
  9. ^ Rogers, Kate (February 24, 2017). "Marijuana entrepreneurs try to stay calm after Spicer comments on weed".
  10. ^ Lopez, German. "Sean Spicer just said we should expect an anti-marijuana crackdown under Trump".
  11. ^ "Trump and Sessions at odds over prosecuting legal marijuana states". Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  12. ^ Toluse Olorunnipa (May 6, 2017), Trump Questions Legal Binds on His Spending in Signing Statement, Bloomberg News
  13. ^ "Sessions terminates US policy that let legal pot flourish".
  14. ^ Herrington, A.J. "Trump Makes Deal to Protect States with Legal Cannabis". High Times. High Times. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  15. ^ Sullivan, Eileen (June 8, 2018). "Trump Says He's Likely to Back Marijuana Bill, in Apparent Break With Sessions". The New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  16. ^ Wagner, John; Itkowitz, Colby (June 8, 2018). "Trump says he 'probably' will support bill to protect states that have legalized marijuana". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  17. ^ Kumar, Anita; Hotakainen, Rob (February 23, 2017). "Donald Trump plans to go after recreational marijuana use". The Olympian. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  18. ^ Brian Heuberger (April 19, 2017), "Governors of marijuana states urge Trump administration to maintain "hands off" marijuana policies", The Colorado Statesman
  19. ^ "Washington state will resist federal crackdown on legal weed, AG Ferguson says". February 23, 2017.
  20. ^ a b "Trump administration plans crackdown on recreational marijuana".
  21. ^ "Cannabis industry roiled by White House comments on enforcement".
  22. ^ Borchardt, Debra. "The Cannabis Industry Is On High Alert After Sean Spicer Suggests Feds Will Crack Down On Marijuana".