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Time to Admit It: Trump Opposes Cannabis Legalization

May 2, 2019
No more pretending 'we don't know where he stands' on legalization. Trump opposes it, even medical marijuana for military veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD. (Susan Walsh/AP)

‘The Haymaker’ is Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott’s opinion column on cannabis politics and culture.

At a cannabis conference last week, I overheard someone say, “we still don’t know where Trump is on legalization.” This is a long-held belief in the cannabis industry. Leafly said as much about then-candidate Trump in 2016.

'We don't know where Trump stands'? Please. We know. We just don't want to admit it.

But it’s worn thin over the years. This week it officially became a delusion.

Here’s what happened. In Congress, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing Tuesday on three bills that would reduce restrictions on veterans’ access to medical cannabis. One bill would allow VA healthcare providers to write state-legal medical cannabis recommendations for veterans who qualify. (Federal law currently prohibits them from doing so.) A separate bill would direct the VA to conduct a clinical study on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana. A third would prevent the VA from stripping veterans of their hard-earned benefits just because they consume state-legal cannabis.

The Trump administration opposed all three. That not merely nonsensical. It’s cruel.


  • On average, more than 20 military veterans die by suicide every day, often due to chronic pain, PTSD, or other service-related conditions. Many veterans now find relief from both opioids and chronic pain, and manage their PTSD, with the help of medical cannabis they must obtain outside the VA medical system. This week, President Trump opposed an effort to allow them that relief.
  • Not too long ago, veterans could lose their lifelong military benefits if a drug test turned up evidence of cannabis use, no matter how legal. The VA reformed that policy in late 2017—but it’s a policy subject to easy change, not a protection codified by law. President Trump opposes codifying it into law.
  • It remains extremely difficult to launch a clinical study on the risks and benefits of medical cannabis on PTSD. Ask Dr. Sue Sisley, who’s famously struggled for years to get her study off the ground. Congress is considering a bill to sponsor just such a study. President Trump opposes it. Think about that: He opposes research into medical cannabis for veterans.

Still wondering what Trump thinks about legalization? Hang on, let me order a big-ass neon billboard from Obvious Signage & Sons. Here’s what it says: HE’S AGAINST IT.


For Veterans With PTSD, Medical Marijuana Can Mean a Good Night’s Sleep

Against Veterans Health

This basket of bills is a no-brainer. More than 90% of Americans support medical marijuana, and it’s hard to think of a more sympathetic adult patient group than our military veterans struggling with PTSD and other service-related conditions. The suicide rate among military veterans is a national crisis, and these bills were created in part to do something about it.

The suicide rate among military veterans is a national crisis. And Trump refuses to allow them medical marijuana.

The congressional committee saw a parade of support for the bill. As Kyle Jaeger reported, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) all expressed varying degrees of support for the bills. These are not radical hippie collectives.

In fairness, the VFW actually opposed Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act—but only because it didn’t go far enough. VFW official Carlos Fuentes said that Blumenauer’s bill wouldn’t allow VA facilities to dispense medical marijuana, forcing veterans to pay for cannabis out of their own pockets. “It is unacceptable for VA providers to recommend a treatment that is unavailable to veterans at their VA medical facilities,” Fuentes said.

This Is Trump’s Policy

Let’s be clear: When the head of a federal agency speaks before Congress, they speak for the White House. They are carrying out official Trump policy. If the president disagreed with it, we’d see it covfefe’d all over his 4 a.m. Twitter feed.

This is Trump's policy. If the president disagreed with it, we’d see it covfefe’d all over his 4 a.m. Twitter feed.

To explain Trump’s policy, the administration sent Keita Franklin, national director of suicide prevention in the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. She said the VA won’t allow doctors to recommend legal cannabis because the DEA said so. Seriously. That was her answer.

Franklin said DEA officials, who seem determined to defend the indefensible Schedule I status of cannabis down to their last bullet, “advised VA that no provision of the Controlled Substances Act would be exempt from criminal sanctions.” That’s a polite way to threaten VA doctors with arrest by DEA agents.

How Can You Oppose Research?

And how did she defend Trump’s stand against research? Any such research, she said, “must include an evaluation of the risks and safety” of such research. Which is nonsense. All clinical research is required to pass the scrutiny of a safety and ethics panel known as an institutional review board, or IRB. That is literally why IRBs exist.

We’ve been pretending for three years now that Trump’s stand on legalization is a mystery. It may be that Trump personally does not give the issue a single thought. Leafly contributor Chris Roberts, among others, has argued this point. Others, like Sen. Cory Gardner, take Trump at his word when he offers assurance that he’ll sign some unspecified future legalization bill. But after two years of President Trump, we’ve learned that his word is worth less than stock options in the Trump Taj Mahal.


Joe Biden’s Drug War Record Is So Much Worse Than You Think

Actions Speak Clearly

Don’t ignore his words completely. But focus on Trump’s cannabis actions. He installed the notoriously cannabis-obsessed Jeff Sessions as his attorney general in 2017. He did nothing to stop Sessions from rescinding the Cole memo in 2018. In 2019, he is coldly and cruelly denying desperate American veterans the right to try medical cannabis to alleviate their pain and PTSD.

There are more than 20 declared candidates for president in 2020. Only two of them—Trump and Joe Biden—are against cannabis legalization. Biden owns up to his position, which hasn’t changed in decades. He’s clearly signaled that he’s against it. Trump pretends he isn’t. It’s time for the rest of us to stop enabling that fable.

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

View Bruce Barcott's articles

  • A Freedom Fighter

    You can’t be a trump follower if your brain is working at all. As soon as you start thinking you can see the emperor has no clothes. Racist bigot, pathological liar, misogynist conman Donald Trump is a POS that should have never been allowed to be president. Unlike alcoholic beverages cannabis makes you think and opens your head to other possibilities. That’s the last thing a con man like Little Donny wants.

    • Tim Stout

      Just move to Canada it’s legal here and are prime minester isnt a fat ugly racist he’s the oppesit lol. Plus are weed kicks ass here in Vancouver b.c. . Your write though trump would mever promote free thinking so as long as he is in ofgice you are screwed on the legal weed thing there in the u.s.a

      • ExpertM16A2

        Canada is a place I’d like to visit. Been to Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Holland, but haven’t visited Canada and Mexico yet.

    • Tayvl

      Support any one of your absurd claims with examples and we can talk. Don’t provide any evidence and we’ll know you’re a troll.

      • Michael Portereiko

        Normally I’d agree with you that examples to back up claims are needed. Sadly, though, the examples are so numerous and common place that posting them yet again is a waste of time, but here goes: Racist – we could go all the way back to 1973 when the DOJ under Nixon sued Trump for descrimination. Liar – Have you been awake for the last 3 years? How about the huge crowd he supposedly had for the inauguration. Misogynist – Again, examples so numerous. Let’s go with the “locker-room” talk caught on tape that was released in 2016 as starters.

        • Tayvl

          “Examples so numerous”… yeah, except they’re not. Not a bit of evidence that he’s racist. “Liar”? Please… there’s a difference between “lying” and “hyperbole”, and you know it. Quit being offended, snowflake. “Misogynist”? No, he obviously likes and respects women, and they happily vote for him. Again, there’s a difference between “locker room talk” and actually hating and abusing women. You know that, but since you have no ACTUAL argument here, you toss all that crap out and hope people overlook your lack of evidence. He has actually accomplished things that are good for the whole country, unlike Obama. Keep clinging to your myths and let the rest of us clean up the mess from 2008-2016…

          • Phat Rob’s Oils

            He has also Hired more Women then any other President.

          • GTG

            Unemployment levels for blacks and Hispanics are at record low numbers because Pres. Trump intentionally set out to do just that…

        • Phat Rob’s Oils

          Locker room talk? You mean Illegally recording a private conversation? You have never said anything they you regret in the privacy of your own home that you wouldn’t say in a public meeting? I call BS!

  • A Freedom Fighter

    The only folks still supporting little Donny are pedophiles like Roy Moore, racist bigots and Russian trolls.

    • JohnBerling

      Polemic has no place in important discussion of public policy.
      Extremist statements like this make you no better than prohibitionists and their absurd and extremist rhetoric.

      • Neuro

        And once upon a time, you would have been right. In this case, you lie down with dogs sir.

    • Twistedlefty

      found the troll

    • Tim Stout

      I agree. Anyone who supports him must be an antisemitic racist that’s just fact. The president of the u.s.a is a stupid and dangerous man. How did he ever get voted in?

      • Tayvl

        Let’s see if you can identify any examples of Trump being anti-Semitic or racist. It will be interesting to see you contort facts to support your unfounded claims. I’m betting that you’re going to pull a “I won’t honor that with an answer” and just drift off into the ether…

        • Jason Reynolds

          central park five.. look up his statement before and after they were acquitted..

          Mexican are rapist and murders..but some are good I guess…

          He and his dad were convicted and fined for racist housing practices in New York

          You must be one of those good nazis from Charlottesville HUH??

          • Tayvl

            Not a bit of corroboration for Trump being anti-Semitic (his daughter and son-in-law wouldn’t be supporting him and working for him if there were, Einstein) or a racist. You’re an uninformed bigot, amigo.

          • ExpertM16A2

            He said Mexico was sending their criminals such as rapist and murderers to the US borders (that means some of them not all of them you dolt)

          • one_kender

            Of course. Nobody can overcome the ideals of their ancestors. You own how many slaves?

      • Ohio Land Man

        you’re a konuk who gives a fk what you think

      • Anonymous

        So that’s why he not only had no problem with his daughter marrying a Jew, but allowed that same Jew to be one of his advisors during his campaign and administration? How anti-semitic and racist of him!

        Those two things are actual facts. I have no idea where you pulled your “fact” from. Might be time to put the pipe down and come up for some fresh air.

      • BA5578

        “an anti-semitic racist”?? I’ve got 2 words for you: Ilhan Omar.
        You’re so obsessed with Socialism and equality, that you let AOC piss away 25,000 good jobs for the people of New York.
        These people speak for you and your party.

      • GTG

        I believe by a majority of votes.

    • Tayvl

      Words of the typical Democrat. Uninformed, opinionated, and profane. Keep up the stereotype, amigo…

  • familyguy

    I have been say this for a long time. If it were up to Trump would all be saying NYET! Get that Russian infested piece of garage out!

    • Phat Rob’s Oils

      The Dems Colluded with Russia, Learn some facts. Its all been released.

      • JR

        F you traitor!

  • JohnBerling

    You are really stretching here, Bruce.

    Nothing has been put in front of Trump. The actions of independent bureaucrats do not “speak directly for the white house” of Trump any more than they have for other Presidents.

    President Trump HAS explicitly stated his support for federal reform that leaves cannabis law up to the states, and he very, VERY publicly dressed Jeff Sessions down and told him to “stand down” on his personal crusade against cannabis.

    If you’re looking for actions that show where he stands, that one is about as clear as it gets.

    • Michael Bassett

      also the us govt, which is the dea has a treaty with tons of countries that says marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, you would have to pull a canada and break the treaty make it legal or decriminalized then federal agencies can recommend it, they cant recommend something that is illegal even if they wanted to. This article is a trump bash piece.

      • Brady Harness

        Then “DO IT” our Veterans Deserve the very Best !!!

      • Michael Portereiko

        Breaking international treaties is something that the Trump administration has had no trouble with. Why stop here?

    • Hillary 2020

      I truly hope you’re correct on that. It’s not President Trump I worry about so much, it’s the people he associates with. He’s way too impressionable.

      • S.S. Carr

        The stuff of MSM…

      • He listens to no one. He is not a career politician. He does what he wants right or wrong. What he wants is another term.

        You do realize that Hillary will not be running, right?

        • Hillary is running. She is working on an evil spell to walk into a brokered convention and take the nomination.

    • MrMuon

      He could easily have done more, it is not an important issue for him clearly.
      Only important in the sense, that he doesn’t want the “issue” to lower his chances for reelection.

      Once reelected, I expect a crack down.

      • one_kender

        Why SHOULD it be a big issue for him? Trump has enough on his plate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the movement but let’s not pretend there aren’t more important things at stake right now. Add to that all of the obstructionist investigations and craziness… Let The man work and see what he does. I started out anti-Trump, voting for Johnson. He was a good Governor when I lived in NM and a good man. He actually gave long form interviews in which he went in depth into policy as opposed to simply giving soundznites to CNN and MSNBC. I certainly wasn’t voting Hillary after my experiences with the gunch and Trump was pretty gross as a person. In Johnson, I actually had a platform I could support. My differences with him were minor. He lost. C’est la vie. Trump won, as was probably inevitable, and I was worried, but is rather have a drunken idiot banging on my door, screaming about how he was going to kill me and having the cops called than a seasoned professional waiting in by bedroom to take me out.

        I have been pleasantly surprised with Trump’s policy. I was personally helped by his tax breaks and was consequently able to start a small business while my rich clients were complaining about having to pay more because he closed up all their loopholes. As far as medical marijuana is concerned, the executive branch is supposed to execute the law, not to bypass it. Pass a good bill and see if he signs it. Until it crosses his desk, you cannot talk shit about the head of the executive branch executing the law. That is his job.

        Recreational? WTF cares. Get your chiropractor to say you have back problems and give you a recommendation. It’ll come eventually. Let the medicinal get settled first. It’s the most important and he has come out time and time again saying let me do it and I’ll give it to you. Medical professionals are the ones th at should decide medical issues but he constitutionally does not have the power to force the FDA and the DEA to deschedule. He is, unfortunately, not an Obamaesque autocrat, using the “power of the pen” to override the legislative process or the power of governmental agencies to quash oppositional voices. He may call people names (which I despise), but he has yet to use the IRS to crack down on people who disagree with him or jail reporters for leaking information…

      • It’s not an important issue for any of them. Getting votes is all any of these politicians care about.
        Legalization will help Trump’s chances, not hurt them. His base votes with their wallets as most Americans do. Legalization is profitable. This math is easy.

    • GTG

  • familyguy

    The man says NYET! You will be too if he continues to sell America to the Russians

    • Tayvl

      If Hillary had won the election (laughable), she would have already made in the nine-figure range from selling out to Putin. Obama smoothed the way for her to do that, btw…

  • Shaun Seljestad

    We need to get rid of anyone who opposes Legalization of Cannabis. I don’t want Dotard running again, I don’t want Joe Biden we need someone younger smarter with a better vision for The United States of America.

    • Tayvl

      “Younger, smarter”… You have no idea how preposterous those two words are, used in the sense that you meant…

    • one_kender

      Gain some perspective. There are many more important fights to be had. I am a firm believer in cannabis rights but it is a mere blip on the radar as far as the other freedoms that are at stake right now. Young != better. In fact, young means a lack of experience and knowledge. They don’t understand how life works. You may want to redefine basic facts like human nature but you are wrong.

  • Trump is a legacy guy, no way is he going to have cannabis legalization on his books. Banking however he will let go though, there is too much money pushing that through. Let’s be thankful that he won’t be legalizing it, no way would work out well for the industry/community. Best to have that done under a liberal democrat.

  • Albytrozz

    Is this where I tear up and break into “O Canada?” 😉 lol

    • familyguy

      You can break out and kiss Putin butt!

      • Albytrozz

        Only if you can tell me what the goddamn Canada has to do with Putin??!

      • ExpertM16A2

        You can keep on that democrat conspiracy hoax if you want…too bad it is proven false…

  • Cody Pope

    He’s opposed to the VA bill because Dems are using it to take away funding for the wall. Nothing to do with cannabis. Cannabis is just caught in the crossfire.

    • familyguy

      Screw the wall! It was not needed in any other presidency. So why now. I guess his convinced supporters with the wall propaganda. Net your going tell me there no Russians in Venezuela. Unlike Kennedy during who invoked the Monroe doctrine during the cuban muzzle Crisis. To you now it is ok for the Russian to have nuclear capable aircraft in Venezuela. You have no knowledge of American history or an ounce of patriotism. Get off this web page you totalitarian but kisser.

      • Brady Harness

        Simple the Dumbocrat/Socialists(Not Patriotic Democrats) don’t want the wall because they want the backing of Illegals because “WISE” Americans won’t give Support to their Insane Socialist Ideologies!!!

      • Ohio Land Man

        WE NEED A FKN WALL .. because Six diseases that were recently near eradication are making a comeback in the United States, as the taxpayer funded refugee resettlement industry launches a propaganda blitz about the so-called World Refugee Day this Monday.
        The returning diseases are;1. Tuberculosis,2. Measles,3. Whooping Cough,4. Mumps,5. Scarlet Fever, 6. Bubonic Plague

        The near eradication of these diseases in the United States during the twentieth century was a remarkable accomplishment of American civilization. Until recently, most Americans believed these diseases were gone from our shores for good.S almost a half a million illegals have arrived soo far to the US.. are you putting any of them up hell NO.. FAMILY GUY.. MY ASS …

        • Michael Portereiko

          The rise of these diseases is largely due to the anti-vaccination movement. That’s another debate entirely.

          • S.S. Carr

            Right… A few could get a way without vaccination because the diseases were, for all practical purposes, GONE!

          • That is true. But the need for more vaccinations is a direct result of unmitigated immigration.

      • S.S. Carr

        Are you at Russian Bot?

        • ExpertM16A2

          Every GOP supporter is now “a russian bot” according to democrats lol. So pathetic…

        • one_kender

          Are you?

    • Brady Harness

      “SCREW” the DumbocrartSocialists(Not Patriotic Democrats) our Troops DESERVE the very best care!!!

  • country farmer

    Trump makes money by keeping cannabis illegal.

  • Christopher Smith

    Are president’s drug tested? Anybody?

  • David Yoseph Schreiber

    We will win and we are winning. They are freaking out. You can even laugh out loud 😂😉😜!

  • Santo Perdido

    “…When the head of a federal agency speaks before Congress, they speak for the White House.”

    Pure BS and anyone with at least half a brain wouldn’t make statements like this. Especially under Trump, there has been infighting unlike anything seen before. Not defending Trump to defend Trump; I’m defending against the idiotic FUD that continues to be spewed by those who have no knowledge of a subject, but who consider themselves experts.

  • Tim Stout

    I wonder if Trump knows that here in Canada since October 17th 2018 here in Canada it’s been legal and are government since then has racked in over 3 billion dollars in profit since weed was legal? Hard to say no to that type of cash flow isn’t It?

  • Brady Harness

    Most often I am with Our President “BUT” not allowing Our Vets to have CBD or other Medical Marijuana needs is “RIDICULOUS” !!!
    They served Our Nation and Deserve the Best of Care and from speaking to Vet Friends, Vet Medical Marijuana should and must be allowed for them !!!

  • Tayvl

    I don’t care whether Trump supports legalization, because he certainly isn’t going after cannabis users and he IS accomplishing what I want him to accomplish. I’m a Vietnam vet, long-time cannabis user, occasional grower, and Trump has done nothing to hamper my cannabis use. I’ll vote for him (for the first time) in 2020.

    • Jason Reynolds

      Your support for trump is a disgrace to the uniform!!! He’s a traitor and so arE you for supporting him..

      You should have run like a coward like trump..BUT you didn’t have a rich daddy and “bone spurs” though huh like your COWARDLY HERO TRUMP!

      Can’t WAIT TO SEE HOW YOU DO AFTER trump AND HIS CRIMINAL BUDDIES CUT SOCIAL SECURITY! They ALREADY CUT MILITARY FUNDING FOR FOLKS LIKE YOU…so he can fund his racist fever dream of a wall! And idiots like you fall hook line and sinker for his BS,,,you are FOOL and a traitor! turn in your stripes and you can hang out with your criminal coward orange traitor who RAN FROM HIS DUTY!!

      • Phat Rob’s Oils

        They didn’t Cut military Funding for Folks like us. Your a uneducated asshole. His support is not a disgrace, the way your acting due to someone political belief is a fucking disgrace. A wall isn’t Racist also its border security. Obama but up 200 miles of wall during his time in office. He also is the one that implemented Putting children in Cages, the Muslim bans that are blamed on trump.


        You sir are legitimately uneducated prick who should learn to respect people for there beliefs even if you don’t. “welcome to America” Dick face.

      • ExpertM16A2

        YOU SHUT YOUR LIBERAL WHINY MOUTH, I am a veteran ex-US ARMY SGT. You probably are too liberal to care about vets, you’ve never served clearly or you would not dare disrespect a vets’s loyalty to the USA. You liberals talk about compassion but have very little of compassion or tolerance for people who don’t support your narratives.

      • Tayvl

        I didn’t have “stripes” when I left, I had “bars” (and medals, and parachute badges). I’m guessing that IF you ever served that you never had more than one stripe on your sleeve… Your ignorance about Trump is matched only by your rabid and misguided blathering about U.S. veterans.

  • Vernon Jenewein

    This article is nothing more than another attempt by the Left Democrats to detract from President Trump. The object now it to do all they can to lower his approval numbers, since Mueller report did not help, and they are now set on a path to disparage AG Barr since he is looking into the Democratic side on the “real” Russian collusion by Hillary and the spying on not only Donald Trump, but on many of the Republican contenders of the election. Until I see his “VETO” on a good clean bill put before him from Congress to legalize marijuana, this is all bull shit.

  • ExpertM16A2

    Dems could not stand for legalization under President Trump, because that would hurt their narrative.

    • Tayvl

      Their narrative may not survive his first term, though…

  • Tayvl

    Evidence, parrot.

  • diggie

    Kind of weird to read someone think this. Trump passed the 2018 Farm Bill that legalizes hemp growing in all 50 states, and now high CBD/low THC flowers (buds) are now being sold (legally) in shops/online in 49 states. I didn’t find out till the other week when I seen prerolled joints sold at the gas station. I smelled it, and couldnt believe it. Sure, its extremely low THC, but it has everything else. This is the absolute closest to full legalization nationwide this country has ever been. I do know that Obama kept harassing shops in California, not sure if the Trump admin has done the same?

  • disgusted_with_it_all

    Well this didn’t age well. 😂😂😂

  • You can always tell when a Trump hater writes an article. You can also tell when a person that knows little, if anything, about politics writes one.
    Trump can use this issue to crush Biden.
    Biden has the anti-pot background. Not Donald Trump. Trump has made it clear that he takes a Federalist stance on the issue which is very good. Trump recently referred to Jeff Sessions as a “mistake”. Barr fully supports State’s rights on the issue.
    Ultimately, Trump is unpredictable.
    Democrats are not. They talk a good game but in the end are liars. Bill Clinton pandered, then jailed more of us than ever before. Obama pandered, then laughed in our faces. That pathetic panel of Democraps we saw the other night are more concerned with giving our tax dollars away to illegal immigrants.

    In the end, Trump has proven to strongly support criminal justice reform and Federal decriminalization of weed is an integral aspect of that effort.
    Trump is no fool. He knows how big this movement is. If it will help him get re-elected, and it will, he’ll do it.

  • Highway 69

    The comments here that disparage liberal thinking, and by default — Democrats, are not conducive to any constructive debate. I’m not a Democrat or Republican. I am a veteran, and…
    I love cannabis. I grow what I need, and give surplus away to friends.

    Although my love affair with weed is long and strong, I wouldn’t couldn’t vote for any candidate for any office just because they profess to support legalization, or any related cannabis issue — as long as their values and integrity are anathema to mine.

  • GTG

    Conservatives tend to be more “live and let live”, even with regards to issues they may appose. Not to mention, a majority of military men and women are Trump supporters. A great many conservatives are in favor of legal med & rec cannabis.

  • Gina Marie Guiher


  • Hillary 2020

    No, I’m afraid old Alex fell to the neocon dark side. I suppose The temptation of rubbing shoulders with a president was just too great for him. There’s a reason he was eighty-sixed from Disqus lol.

  • Christopher Smith

    Yes they are because there just like white America get something for free and turn it into cash by your pic you been robbing as well taking from the earth till it caves in Mr. Oil man Ohio Land Man