At the Republican National Convention this week, Donald J. Trump will be officially crowned the party’s presidential candidate. With the possibility of a Trump presidency becoming very, very real, cannabis advocates are naturally curious about just what that would mean for legalization efforts.
As with many of Trump’s policies, specifics are vexingly hard to come by. The “Positions” section of his official website does not offer any comment on cannabis. The only official comment on drugs can be found under the “Issues” section, in which he offers a short video on the drug epidemic in New Hampshire. In it, he promises to stem the flow of drugs from south of the border (with the Mexico-funded wall, of course), but neither gives specifics on what drugs he’s referring to nor offers any opinion on the legal cannabis already being grown right here in the U.S.
None of the other materials on the site offer any comment on cannabis. Trump has spoken on the issue previously, but his comments are a far cry from an actual policy position. In 1990, he came out strongly in favor of legalization. And not just for cannabis, but for all drugs.
“We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he famously said at a 1990 Miami Herald luncheon. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
Important to note: In 1990, Trump wasn’t running for office. And while he was solid on legalization then, these days he’s more than a little gelatinous. His recent comments on cannabis legalization are typical to his knack for political expediency, largely consisting of unsupported observations and noncommittal platitudes. His opinion on cannabis neatly mirrors the political viability of various issues within cannabis. To wit, he is fully in favor of medical cannabis and sitting comfortably on the fence in regards to recreational.
Indeed, his love for legalization, full blown in 1990, has been reduced to hemming and hawing in 2016. In an interview this February on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor, Trump responded to Bill O’Reilly’s pointedly anti-pot questioning — what would The Donald do to stop the evil scourge of cannabis legalization? — with this rather milquetoast waffle: “I would, I would really want to think about that one, Bill, because in some ways, I think it’s good, and in other ways, it’s bad.”
While he did pick a running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is clearly anti-cannabis in all its forms, Trump has also shown that he cares very little about Pence’s opinions. Pressed recently by CBS’ Lesley Stahl about how he can be openly critical of the Iraq War while his VP was definitively in favor of it, Trump shot back, “I don’t care.”
In the same vein, there’s the issue of Trump’s affection for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’s been a notorious anti-cannabis crusader in his home state. While Christie didn’t get the VP nod, he’s considered a potential pick for attorney general should Trump win the White House. While the thought of Christie overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice is one that should definitely give cannabis advocates cause for concern, it may also be a non-issue.
You see, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a key member of his campaign staff, is not a Christie fan. In 2005, Christie was the prosecutor on a nasty, convoluted case in which Kushner’s father, Charles, was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. Safe to say the Kushners, who are part of Trump’s inner circle, would not be thrilled to see Christie as AG.
Regardless, while Pence and Christie’s anti-cannabis records have been the subject of much speculation by the cannabis blogosphere, that might say more about the lack of an actual stance from Trump himself.
While Trump is very clearly pro-medical marijuana, saying that he supports it “a hundred percent,” that’s as much as he’s offered. His veteran’s reform “Position” is an ample essay, addressing concerns that have a lot to do with cannabis — PTSD, for example — but it doesn’t actually mention cannabis at all. Would President Trump sign another iteration of the recent appropriations bill that called on the VA to allow veterans access to medical marijuana? Who knows? Would President Trump order the DEA to move cannabis to Schedule II? Go fish. Would President Trump defy his party, which recently declined to include medical marijuana reform on its platform, in order to allow patients access nationwide?
It’s almost more difficult to predict what Trump would do in terms of recreational cannabis. Though his most recent comments on the issue were not kind to Colorado — he told Fox’s Sean Hannity in March that “they’ve got a lot of problems going on right now” — he’s also been careful to espouse states’ rights, prefacing that comment with, “If they vote for it, they vote for it.” Would an elected Trump send the DEA in to shut it all down? Doesn’t seem likely, given his professed respect for state’s rights, but his criticisms of state-level legalization experiments aren’t exactly reassuring.
Essentially, he’s pandering to two classic Republican constituencies — the “Don’t Tread on Me” crowd and the “Just Say No” crowd — all in the same breath. What that means in terms of on-the-ground policy is anyone’s guess.
If there’s one thing to be said about Trump, though, it’s that he’s a panderer par excellence. And while he hasn’t offered any specifics on what he would do on cannabis as commander in chief, it’s safe to say that the best weathervane for his potential policies might be the whims of public opinion itself.
Which, if you’re keeping up with the polls these days, might not be such a bad thing.
Photo by Gage Skidmore