White House press secretary predicts ‘greater enforcement’ on recreational marijuana

By John Schroyer

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday said there will likely be increased federal enforcement on recreational marijuana businesses.

“I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it,” Spicer said in response to a question about whether the Department of Justice will enforce federal marijuana laws.

It was the Trump administration’s first public comment on the nation’s marijuana industry, and it comes as a growing number of states have legalized both recreational and medical cannabis.

Spicer sought to differentiate between the two types of cannabis, indicating the administration will take a more hands-off approach toward MMJ.

In response to a question from an Arkansas reporter about medical cannabis, Spicer said during the daily White House press briefing:

“There’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana, and I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”

After another reporter asked a follow-up question, Spicer expanded on the topic, but he didn’t offer a conclusive policy position from the Trump administration.

“I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice,” Spicer said. “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it, because again, there’s a big difference between the medical use, which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was on how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different from the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

The medical marijuana industry in the United States is currently protected by the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prohibits the DOJ from using federal funds to interfere with state MMJ laws, but no such protections currently exist in federal law for recreational marijuana businesses.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means any state-licensed rec business could potentially be prosecuted by the DOJ for trafficking in illegal narcotics.

Conflicting reaction

Massachusetts-based attorney Bob Carp, an expert on federal marijuana law, said Spicer’s comments aren’t “that big of a deal.”

“This was a sound bite from him, from his playbook he’s been given,” Carp said. “He doesn’t make decisions for the Department of Justice, he doesn’t make decisions for Donald Trump.

“All he does is report what he’s told to report, and this was essentially just a little snippet he was told to give when that question was posed. So I don’t think there’s any real platform that’s been adopted by the White House or the Justice Department yet with regard to enforcement of marijuana.”

But San Francisco-based cannabis industry attorney Henry Wykowski disagreed.

“He’s the president’s spokesperson, and he’s projecting,” Wykowski said of Spicer’s remarks. “This is a very concerning statement because I think that we’re receiving hints as to how they’re going to decide what their position on cannabis is going to be, and they’ve now confirmed that they’re going to look at medical and adult use differently.”

Carp said that with all the legal obstacles the DOJ would face regarding a multistate crackdown on rec MJ businesses, it would likely take “months, if not a year at the very least” before prosecutions could begin.

“Let’s say, for instance, if all of a sudden the DOJ cracks down, the states that are collecting taxes are going to be very adamant that they will bring a temporary restraining order so it can be litigated,” Carp said. “And this is a constitutional fight that could literally take years and tremendous expertise to do.”

Carp predicted the DOJ may instigate a few raids on adult-use cannabis businesses to “let them know they’re watching,” but he believes any increase in federal law enforcement would not be widespread.

27 comments on “White House press secretary predicts ‘greater enforcement’ on recreational marijuana
  1. Rush 2112 on

    I really wish someone at the WH would read a frickin book about marijuana. And what the hell is this from Spicy? “There’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana, and I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people. ” Yeah Spicy, Opioid pain medication is being made by big pharma which is leading people to use heroin! How can he equate marijuana to the opioid crisis that is killing millions each year to marijuana which has killed ZERO? Ignorance at it’s finest. They actually use marijuana as way of getting people off of opioids because it’s safer! STUPID SPICY!!

    Reply
    • Lawrence Goodwin on

      The claim that cannabis flowers have killed “zero” is now false, as Marijuana Business Daily and various other media sources have reported (see “Contaminated MMJ blamed for California man’s death,” 2/8/17). The vast majority of cannabis growers are thoughtful and reasonable people, who only distribute products that are 100 percent safe for public consumption. The problems arise (as in so many industries) from the few bad apples, who care not if their products are laced with poisonous pesticides or tainted by rodent dung—as long as they make a buck.

      Reply
      • George Bianchini on

        Cannabis did not kill anyone. It was the contamination that caused the death. Just like the many people killed last year from contaminated produce or meats. Are we going to ban produce and meats because they could kill you? And how about water? a woman in Sacramento died from drinking to much water in a radio promotion. Should we ban water because Hydrogen can kill you “H2O”. let’s save 35,000 lives lost each year by outlawing cars and trucks. Don’t even get me started about how many lives are lost from the deadliest thing out there, SUGAR! I will admit though that cannabis can kill you if someone drops a bale of cannabis from a tall building and it hits you on the head at terminal velocity. Now that’s going to kill you. So we will need to ban tall buildings. Well maybe just tall buildings that are named Trump! Especially the new ones to be built all over Russia!

        Reply
      • thorbybaslim on

        We use bugs to kill bugs. Organic as in soil. No pesticides.No fungicides. No chemical fertilizers. Pot has killed no one. Not even the fellow in Cali. He was killed by pesticide used on the cannabis by a criminal grower.
        Quit trolling and telling lies govtroll.

        Reply
    • Jack Barwick on

      Speaking of ignorance at its finest, keep your facts straight so you don’t sound like so many who exaggerate facts to suit their agenda.
      In 2015, last year for which data is available, according to the CDC, 33,091 Americans died of opioid related drug overdoses.
      Exaggerating facts does a disservice to the argument.

      Reply
  2. Cactus Bill on

    That unusual sound rumbling in the background this afternoon is being generated by millions of MJ aficionados simultaneously rushing to begin the qualifying process for Medical MJ.
    What is, is.
    Until MJ is removed from CFR Schedule 1, “Rec” is Wrecked, and will be a poor choice for serious investment.

    Reply
  3. Robert Hunt on

    In any given situation pertaining to cannabis policy, I will always take Henry’s opinion over Bob’s. There is no doubt who has had more experience in working through these issues with the Feds. I look to you Henry for how this battle will be waged, because I predict it will be an ugly one.

    Reply
  4. George McMahon on

    Such hypocrites, the mantra of the Republican party is “we want a small government that stays of the backs of its citizens” yet they want to tell consenting adults who they can and cannot marry, what religion they should or should not belong, and now it’s ok to drink alcohol (which makes people violent and dangerous when overindulging) but you can’t smoke or eat THC if you so choose. (which mellows people out) They also talk about state’s rights yet but when it’s something they don’t like, they change their tune so quick it gives you whiplash!

    Reply
  5. Rod on

    I seriously doubt the federal government has the interest or the funding to carry on a large scale crackdown.
    And certainly not in states where cannabis is already legal.
    They don’t have the time or the money to prosecute people who use Pot recreationally. Really ? We’re not going back to the Stone Age folks. Marijuana is here to stay, to many tax dollars at stake. Not to mention the new jobs that have been created. Job growth is very important to this administration.

    Reply
    • Rush 2112 on

      I agree Rod. Resources and money for that are scarce. Also the money the states are bringing in in taxes is going to be extremely hard to say goodbye too. Colorado brought in over $1.1Billion dollars in revenue in 2016 from pot sales. Thousands of jobs were created. Tax money is being used for road construction, schools, homeless shelters, scholarships for low income families among other things. Is Trump going to be Big Government or let the States decide like he promised? I don’t think he wants to open this can of worms. Pence might but I think the ship has sailed on rec MJ. The people are speaking up across the country and know MJ is much safer than Alcohol despite the lies the WH is spitting out. Legalize it!! Prohibition does not work.

      Reply
    • Doug on

      Keep in mind the “money” part comes from the highly profitable raids. You don’t even have to be convicted to have all of your assets confiscated. Enforcement action would generate large sums of money for law enforcement almost overnight.

      Reply
  6. George Bianchini on

    Carp stated “And this is a constitutional fight that could literally take years and tremendous expertise to do.” Like most of us in the MMJ industry, we wake up in the morning and have to decide which battle to wage and which direction to turn. I believe we need to send a loud message to the White House that our numbers are huge “believe me” huge. Many in this country are starting to talk impeachment. the radical bible thumpers and other deplorables are no match in numbers this time, we have had that wake up call loud and clear. While “The Donald” talks and acts at a grade school level “believe me” even a fifth grader can google and find that there are more cannabis users than people that voted for him. do the math. I was kind of hoping for that 15% tax rate before he completely implodes. Pence, your next. behave.

    Reply
  7. Morgan Glenn on

    States should issue medical marijuana permits to every citizen. Treat it like Advil or Tums. They push this stuff people may organize a federal tax boycott. Let’s see how well they run without our money. We are paying them to oppress and attack us. These are despots now who have declared war on the American People. The need to be viewed like Hitler’s Nazi party and treated as such. Any cannabis entrepreneur who voted for Trump has egg on their face and should be ostracized as a dim witted fool.

    Reply
      • Rasheed Shah on

        Well Nate, I am a conservative supporter of Donald J Trump and a Cannabis supporter and I far from a dim witted fool as Morgan stated. Donald J Trump is a states’ rights advocate which is constitutionally sound, whether it’s homosexual marriage, transvestites using female restrooms/locker rooms, healthcare or Cannabis use. The federal govt has no business in any of it. Remember, the bigger the govt, the smaller our liberty.

        Barack Hussein Obama was not a states’ rights advocate and merely looked the other way as far as Cannabis enforcement. Veterans, the elderly and children are more in need of Cannabis than most of us and are segments of the society that we owe a duty to look after. This is one reason that I firmly believe there will be no enforcement of federal criminal/civil law on the rec businesses.

        I think we would advance our position better by focusing on dispelling the myths and stereotypes related to Cannabis, e.g., there is no difference between recreational Cannabis and medical Cannabis; by using it recreationally does not negate its medicinal properties; 22 veterans commit suicide everyday, none of whom were using Cannabis, most likely opiates; if Cannabis is so dangerous why haven’t anyone overdosed?; if Cannabis is so dangerous, why does the federal govt have patents for its medicinal properties?; if Cannabis is a gateway drug why do kids start of with Marlboro, Budweiser, Jack Daniels and mom’s Percocet that were left over from her foot surgery?

        Disspelling these type of misconceptions along with the personal accounts of folks who are benefitting from Cannabis. Facts tell, stories sell. I find it not helpful to demonize any politician because these are the folks that we have to persuade to accomplish the goal. We can catch more flies with honey, than vinegar. Conservatives in particular should be confronted with the states’ rights argument.

        Reply
  8. Semaj on

    People in government only understand laws on paper not common sense and facts. Their is a law prohibiting the DOJ from using federal funds to prosecute MMJ people but nothing against rec. To link cannabis with opium shows how desperate they are in their losing fight against the opioid epidemic. Are problem of their own causing.

    Reply
  9. Ma Dang on

    1) Lawrence, it was the pesticides that killed the patient, NOT the MMJ and the grower should be prosecuted.
    2) Research has shown MJ is NOT a gateway drug, but rather a viable replacement for opioid and alcohol addiction.
    3) A large scale crackdown is unlikely, but challenges to Rec laws will be coming from the DOJ. That would satisfy those against Rec (Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Conservatives and the Evangelicals), but allow Trump to “keep his promise’ to allow states to decide on MMJ !
    4) Anybody who thought this wasn’t coming with Jeff Sessions as ‘AT’ has NOT been paying attention to his record. This is one of Trump’s hand off’s (payback) to his right wing supporters.
    5) Again, our Hope rests on pressuring the Congress to change MJ’s class 1 status, enact Banking laws and have the high Courts restore State’s sovereignty over its residents.
    so sad, so sad.

    Reply
    • johnnybegood on

      It was bacteria that killed the man not pesticides. It was only suspected that the bacteria came from the weed he was smoking. You can not go after the grower on a guess.

      Reply
  10. Horsinator on

    Don’t worry about it already. Trump’s mid-30’s approval rating assures that no action will be taken. He can’t afford to go any lower. MJ approval is over 60%. It would be political suicide for him or the AG to take any action. As for the Press Secretary, the Saturday Night sketch live is a fitting tribute.

    Reply
  11. bbarakti on

    The President is a huge fan of Twitter. Lets engage him directly. We need a hashtag rally cry to tweet enmasse to him that we want Feds to keep out of cannabis. I’m not a fan of twitter, so what’s a good hashtag to use?

    #staterights
    #cannastates
    #keepcannalegal
    #keepcannabislegal
    #listentothevoters
    #Cannataxwinning
    #nomorecartels

    The guy has unprecedented twitter use. That should make engaging him easier than any other PotUS in history. People should try.

    Canna writers should write articles on why millions of us, personally engaged in a conversation with him… might affect the executive branches behavior.

    That an a list of congress/ senate contact info.

    Maybe a clear, concise, and intelligent letter to address to these people in office. Something to make it easy to interact with the electorate in a consolidated way. Let me copy and paste a paragraph to my state legislators and my federal legislators.

    Are these weak sauce answer yes, but it’s all we have.

    Reply

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