What Would a Trump Presidency Mean For Cannabis?

Published on August 25, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Griffiss International Airport on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in Rome, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

UPDATE, Nov. 8, 2016: The story has been updated to reflect the results of the 2016 general election. 

As we greet the day after the 2016 general election, the question on everyone’s lips now is what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for cannabis.

When we examine Trump’s history with cannabis, it’s a mixed bag of opinions and proclamations.

In 1990, Trump, ever the businessman, supported the legalization of cannabis and proposed ending the War on Drugs to cash in on cannabis revenue to a Florida audience during a luncheon hosted by the Miami Herald:

“We’re losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars….What I’d like to do maybe by bringing it up is cause enough controversy that you get into a dialogue on the issue of drugs and you start to realize that this is the only answer; there is no other answer.”

However, in more recent interviews, Trump started singing a different tune on legalization. When asked about Colorado, his response was disheartening:

“I think it’s bad and I feel strongly about it. They’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado, some big problems.”

Which problems is he referring to, exactly? The extra revenue going back to educational funds? The booming economy and abundance of new jobs? The drop in violent crime and property crime?

Trump does claim to support states’ rights to legalize, saying, “If they vote for it, they vote for it.” He also acknowledged support for medical marijuana, opining that “Medical marijuana is another thing. I think medical marijuana, 100 percent.”

So, the question remains: how will the marijuana legalization movement be affected under a Trump presidency?

Another major factor to consider are his brothers in arms – namely Chris Christie, Rudy Guiliani, and Mike Pence, all of whom are staunchly anti-cannabis. If Trump chooses to put any of them in a position of power, such as Attorney General, there’s a very real possibility that they could attempt to shut down the legal cannabis industry.

During his bid for the Republican nomination, Chris Christie said as much on the campaign trail. When asked if he would enforce federal drug laws, his response was “Absolutely. I will crack down and not permit it.”

During Rudy Guiliani’s mayoral term, he cracked down hard on illegal drugs, with a special focus on marijuana. It’s nearly guaranteed that he would continue in the same vein, given the opportunity.

The biggest concerns for newly legal states, as well as medical states will almost certainly be related to those in Trump’s administration, rather than Trump himself.

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We’re taking some minor solace in that Trump is, by definition, a businessman. He has said he respects states’ rights and supports medical cannabis, which is as much as we can ask for right now.

Perhaps if he realizes the incredible amount of revenue that can be produced from legalizing cannabis, as a man who knows that money talks, he may see the light.

Lead Image: Mike Groll/AP

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
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