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Pro-Trump Group’s Poll Shows Opposition To Trump Marijuana Policies

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The Trump administration’s marijuana enforcement policies are deeply unpopular with U.S. voters, including with the president’s base. That’s according to a survey recently conducted by a conservative advocacy group and pollsters closely tied to President Trump and his political campaign apparatus.

“When it comes to legalizing marijuana, over 8-in-10 voters (82%) believe that the drug should be legal for either medical or recreational purposes (43%), or legal solely for medical purposes (39%),” reads a polling memo that was prepared in January by American First Policies, a nonprofit group that hired the president’s pollsters to run surveys. “Only 13% of the electorate believe that marijuana should be classified as illegal.”

Among key constituencies for the president:

• Less than 1-in-5 Trump voters believe that marijuana should be illegal (18%)

• Only about 1-in-10 voters in competitive 2018 states believe the drug should be illegal (11%)

The survey of 1,200 U.S. voters, the existence of which was first reported by CNBC, was conducted roughly two weeks after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference.

The America First Policies survey found that move to be unpopular as well, as shown by the group’s polling memo obtained by Marijuana Moment.

“By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, voters believe states should be allowed to individually determine whether or not to legalize marijuana (60%), over the federal government determining the legality (31%),” it reads.

That includes a 10-point margin of support for local control in cannabis laws by Republican voters (50% to 40%) and a 17-point spread among Trump supporters (54% to 37%).

The poll did show one hopeful sign for Sessions’s action, at least among the president’s base, but only when respondents were read a vague question that did not make clear the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

When asked if they “support or oppose the Department of Justice instructing all U.S. Attorneys to enforce federal marijuana laws, including the prohibiting the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana,” Republicans were on board to the tune of 56% to 32%, and Trump supporters weighed in at 51% to 38%.

But U.S. voters overall oppose the move, with 53% in against and just 36% in support.

And then, when asked next to specifically choose if “each state should be allowed to individually determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes within the boundaries of their state regardless of federal law” or if “the federal government should determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes for the entire country and should enforce the law in every state regardless of local laws,” every demographic in the survey supported local policies in opposition to Sessions’s move:

States’ Choice

Fed. Gov’t.

DIFF

Republican (31%)

50%

40%

+10

Democrat (35%)

65%

27%

+38

Independent (26%)

65%

28%

+37

Republican Men (17%)

51%

44%

+7

Republican Women (14%)

50%

35%

+15

Democrat Men (13%)

69%

22%

+47

Democrat Women (22%)

62%

30%

+32

Independent Men (13%)

67%

26%

+41

Independent Women (13%)

62%

29%

+33

Trump Voter (39%)

54%

38%

+16

Trump Supporter (55%)

54%

37%

+17

2018 Competitive State (25%)

55%

30%

+25

CNBC discovered the marijuana polling memo as well as survey data on a number of other issues buried on the America First Policies website. Most of the documents were removed after the news organization inquired about them.

By hiring the pollsters who have worked for the president’s campaign, the nonprofit engaged in a practice that “breaks with decades of tradition and raises concerns about potential coordination between the dark money group, the White House and the RNC,” CNBC reported, referring to the Republican National Committee.

CNBC elaborated the concern this way:

“America First Policies is not the first nonprofit group created to advance a president’s priorities, nor is it the first to conduct intensive polling. Two Obama-linked groups, Priorities USA and Organizing for Action did the same thing. Priorities USA did not disclose its donors, but OFA did voluntarily, releasing quarterly donor lists.

“But by hiring the Trump campaign’s pollsters to conduct such a large and secretive Trump-focused data operation, and paying for it with dark money, America First Policies is going well beyond what previous outside nonprofit groups have done.”

The marijuana polling document’s metadata indicates it was created by Brett Lloyd, CEO of The Polling Company, which was founded by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

America First Policies itself was co-founded by Brad Parscale, who Trump tapped this week to run his 2020 reelection campaign.

Setting aside the propriety of the groups working together, the survey results obtained by Marijuana Moment demonstrate the deeply unpopular nature of the Trump administration’s decision to remove protections for state marijuana policies, a move that is in conflict with the president’s repeated campaign pledges to respect local cannabis laws.

The data, particularly that showing opposition to overarching federal marijuana prohibition laws among Trump’s base of voters, could also add to growing tensions between the president and the attorney general. The two have clashed over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with Trump tweeting this week that Sessions is “DISGRACEFUL.”

See the full topline results of the America First Policies marijuana polling questions below:

66. When it comes to legalizing marijuana, which comes closest to your point of view…

43% Marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational purposes

39% Marijuana should be legal for medical purposes, but not recreational purposes

13% Marijuana should be illegal

2% Depends / other (vol)

3% Unsure / refused (vol)
____________________________________________________________________________________________
67. Do you support or oppose the Department of Justice instructing all U.S. Attorneys to enforce federal marijuana laws, including prohibiting the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana?

(Phone version: If choice made, ask: Is that strongly or somewhat (support / oppose)?

36% Total Support

53% Total Oppose

21% Strongly Support

16% Somewhat Support

16% Somewhat Oppose

36% Strongly Oppose

3% Depends / other (vol)

8% Unsure / refused (vol)
____________________________________________________________________________________________
68. Still thinking about marijuana laws, which comes closest to your own opinion… (ROTATE)

60% Each state should be allowed to individually determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes within the boundaries of their state, regardless of federal law.

31% The federal government should determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes for the entire country, and should enforce the law in every state regardless of local laws.

4% Depends / other (vol)

5% Unsure / refused (vol)

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Federal Judge Gives Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Activists A Boost With Signature Gathering Ruling

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Activists behind a marijuana legalization initiative in Arkansas are seeing glimmers of hope that they will be able to qualify for the November ballot despite serious setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A federal judge ruled on Monday that the secretary of state must accept signatures that were not collected in-person or notarized, as has been required by existing policy, because of excessive burdens that imposes on campaigns amid the health crisis. Legalization advocates say the temporary injunction, which comes before a final ruling, gives them confidence their measure can qualify ahead of a July 3 deadline to submit signatures.

Now people can download, print and mail in signed petitions—significantly bolstering the chances the legal cannabis campaign can make up for the petitioning deficit created by stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements enacted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the April lawsuit that brought about the federal injunction (which was not filed by legalization activists but by another initiative campaign), plaintiffs also made the case that full-scale electronic signature gathering should be permitted. U.S. District Judge P. K. Holmes empathized with that request in his order, noting that in many scenarios outside the ballot process, officials have recognized the validity of digitally signed documents—including in legal proceedings he oversees.

“It is not that electronic signatures cannot similarly be determined to be genuine. In fact, electronic signatures are commonplace and accepted for all manner of official business, and not only by the State, but by this Court,” he said. “Counsel for Plaintiffs and the Secretary of State electronically signed the briefing on this very motion, and the Court has electronically signed this opinion and the order.”

However, the judge said there must be a balance that takes into account the state’s interest in ensuring the validity of signatures and so he’s doubtful the final ruling will provide for digital signatures.

In any case, the court’s temporary injunction bodes well for the marijuana reform campaign, Arkansans for Cannabis Reform, which says it was on the path to qualifying before in-person signature gathering was suspended. Melissa Fults, executive director of the group, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Wednesday that she’s confident the new policies will help the initiative get placed before voters.

“I am still confident. We’re going to give a hard push these next four-and-a-half weeks—hoping and praying that we get signatures and get them turned in and get on the ballot,” she said. “And I think it’ll pass once it gets on the ballot.”

Arkansas voters approved a medical cannabis ballot measure in 2016.

As the state begins the process of reopening, Fults said the campaign will also be engaging in limited in-person collection with enhanced safety mechanisms in place, as well as “drive by” gathering for people to sign the initiative from their vehicles.

In order to make the ballot, the group needs to submit about 90,000 valid signatures from registered voters by July 3. Fults said they’ve collected roughly 20,000 so far, and so these last five weeks will prove critical.

Under the proposal, adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to four ounces of cannabis flower and grow up to six plants and six seedings.

A minimum of one dispensary must be licensed per county, and there must be at least 30 shops per congressional district.

Tax revenue from marijuana sales would first go toward implementation. After that, 60 percent would be used to fund public pre-K and after school programs and 40 percent would fund the operations of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Another campaign that was working to put cannabis legalization on the state’s ballot told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Tuesday that it is ending its effort for the year and will shift its focus to 2022. An Arkansas True Grass spokesperson said “we weren’t able to do any of our spring events” because of the virus, leaving them without an opportunity to qualify.

Here’s a status update on other drug policy reform efforts throughout the country: 

Activists in Montana and Nebraska have resumed signature gathering with new safety measures in place for campaigns to legalize adult-use marijuana and medical cannabis, respectively.

In Arizona, the organizers of a legalization effort asked the state Supreme Court to instruct the secretary of state to allow people to sign cannabis petitions digitally using an existing electronic system that is currently reserved for individual candidates seeking public office. That request was denied but in March the campaign expressed optimism that they had amassed enough signatures to qualify anyway.

Separate Oregon campaigns to decriminalize drug possession while significantly expanding substance misuse treatment and to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes recently submitted more than enough raw signatures to qualify for ballot access, though they must still be verified.

Activists in Washington State are continuing to work on a drug decriminalization and treatment measure.

Washington, D.C. activists behind a psychedelics decriminalization campaign are more confident that they will be able to make the ballot after the District Council voted in favor of a series of changes to signature gathering protocol.

A federal judge recently ordered Ohio officials to accept electronic signature submissions to place local marijuana decriminalization measures on the ballot—a decision that could potentially have positive implications for a statewide legalization campaign in the works.

California activists had hoped to get a measure to legalize psilocybin on the state’s November ballot, but the campaign stalled out amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A California campaign seeking to amend the state’s cannabis law asked for a digital petitioning option, but state officials haven’t signed on.

A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri officially gave up its effort for 2020 due to signature collection being virtually impossible in the face of social distancing measures.

North Dakota activists said they plan to continue campaign activities for a marijuana legalization initiative, but it’s more likely that they will seek qualification for the 2022 ballot.

Idaho medical cannabis activists announced that they are suspending their ballot campaign, though they are still “focusing on distributing petitions through online download at IdahoCann.co and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerk’s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.”

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home mandates, measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes qualified for South Dakota’s November ballot.

The New Jersey legislature approved putting a cannabis legalization referendum before voters as well.

And in Mississippi, activists gathered enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis legalization initiative for the ballot—though lawmakers also approved a competing (and from advocates’ standpoint, less desirable) medical marijuana proposal that will appear alongside the campaign-backed initiative.

Read the federal judge’s order on Arkansas signature gathering below: 

20-5070 Miller Et Al v. Thu… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Scientists And Veterans File Lawsuit Challenging DEA’s Marijuana Rescheduling Denials

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Scientists And Veterans File Lawsuit Challenging DEA’s Marijuana Rescheduling Denials

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is facing yet another marijuana-related lawsuit—and this time, researchers and veterans are challenging the agency’s denial of prior cannabis rescheduling requests.

The Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) filed suit last week in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking for a review of DEA’s scheduling determinations in 2020, 2016 and 1992. In all cases, the agency denied the petitions, citing statutory obligations to maintain the status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Petitioners are taking exception to the basis of those denials, raising questions about DEA’s reliance on scheduling standards that they feel are arbitrary and misinterpret federal law. In particular, they are seeking reviews of the agency’s claims that marijuana must be strictly scheduled because, the government has claimed, it has no currently accepted medical value and has not been proven to be safe.

They also argue that another statutory policy DEA says necessitates marijuana being strictly controlled is unconstitutional.

“The reason we’re filing this is because, ultimately, the research has been impeded,” Matt Zorn, an attorney representing SRI in the case, told Marijuana Moment. “We’re trying to get the administration to remove those roadblocks.”

In terms of valid therapeutic value, the agency has said there are five criteria that a substance must meet, including the reproducibility of the drug, the existence of controlled studies establishing safety and efficacy and “whether the drug is not accepted by qualified experts.”

Lawyers representing SRI argued in a filing that the test “has no basis in the statute, is contrary to the statutory text, structure, history, and purpose, departs from the original understanding of the statute and rests on flawed and outdated case law.”

Further, they said DEA’s determination that there’s a “lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision” is wrong because it “misconstrues the statute and is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law because the agency has improperly imported a clinical efficacy requirement.”

In its past denials of rescheduling petitions, the agency has asserted that marijuana can only be placed in either Schedule I or II. But the attorneys said the statute justifying that determination is “an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority” that “violates core separation of powers principles” by granting the attorney general authority to schedule drugs on his or her discretion based on an interpretation of international treaty obligations.

“[T]he statute outsources regulatory power to create domestic criminal law to international organizations and subordinates domestic law to treaty obligations, conventions, and protocols,” the suit states. “Then, it entrusts the Attorney General, a member of the executive branch, to execute non-self-executing international treaty obligations, providing him no intelligible principle, instructions, standards, or criteria whatsoever against which to measure what ‘he deems most appropriate.’ This is unconstitutional.”

Stephen Zyskiewicz, who filed the handwritten 2020 rescheduling petition that is central to the new suit’s claims, is not a party to the case. Instead, several military veterans, as well as SRI and its principal investigator Sue Sisley, are the plaintiffs.

“Marijuana’s schedule I status and DEA’s determinations hinder SRI’s clinical research—the very clinical research that DEA requires under its unlawful interpretation of 21 U.S.C. § 812(b)(1)(B) to consider removing marijuana from schedule I—in several key respects,” the lawsuit states. For example, the scheduling status has meant that “SRI has had to delay FDA-approved clinical trials to investigate the safety and efficacy of smoked marijuana in treating breakthrough pain in terminal cancer patients.”

This isn’t SRI’s first time taking the feds to court over their marijuana decisions. The institute, which is among several dozen applicants to become a federally authorized manufacturer of cannabis for research purposes, successfully forced DEA to issue an update on the status of their application processing and then got the Justice Department to hand over a “secret” memo that DEA allegedly used to justify a delay in deciding on those proposals.

“What has been animating all of these lawsuits is that we can’t get the research done,” Zorn said. “The ideal result is that we stop filing lawsuits and the administration decides it wants to support cannabis research. But until that happens, we’ll be in the courts.”

Meanwhile, a public comment period recently ended for proposed rules that DEA published as part of its attempt to expand the number of authorized cannabis manufacturers. Many advocates made the case that marijuana research should not be the purview of DEA at all and should instead be handled by a federal health agency.

DEA could also find itself being challenged over its marijuana scheduling decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court in a separate case. After an appeals court dismissed a lawsuit because the plaintiffs said they wouldn’t push for rescheduling through administrative channels, attorneys in the case said they will soon request that the nation’s highest court take it up.

Read the new lawsuit challenging DEA’s marijuana rescheduling denials below: 

SRI Suit DEA by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Former Attorney General, Lawmakers And Police Leaders Call For Federal Marijuana Legalization Waivers

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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USDA Approves Hemp Plans For U.S. Virgin Islands And Four Indian Tribes

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Wednesday that it has approved hemp regulatory plans from a U.S. territory and four additional Indian tribes.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is the first territory to have its proposal accepted. USDA also signed off on plans from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Chippewa Cree Tribe, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.

That brings the total number of approved plans across states, territories and tribes to 47.

USDA has been signing off on hemp plans on a rolling basis since the crop and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. Earlier this month, Massachusetts joined the list of states where proposed regulations for hemp have been approved.

The department said in a new notice that it “continues to receive and review hemp production plans from states and Indian tribes.”

While the agency released an interim final rule for a domestic hemp production program last year, industry stakeholders and lawmakers have expressed concerns about certain policies it views as excessively restrictive.

USDA announced in February that it will temporarily lift two provisions that the industry viewed as problematic. Those policies primarily concern testing and disposal requirements. The department declined to revise the THC limit, however, arguing that it’s a statutory matter that can’t be dealt with administratively.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said on several occasions that the Drug Enforcement Administration influenced certain rules, adding that the narcotics agency wasn’t pleased with the overall legalization of hemp.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still in the process of developing regulations for CBD. It sent an update on its progress to Congress in March, explaining that the agency is actively exploring pathways to allow for the marketing of the cannabis compound as a dietary supplement and is developing enforcement discretion guidance.

An FDA public comment period was reopened indefinitely for individuals to submit feedback on CBD regulations.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, hemp industry associations pushed for farmers to be able to access to certain COVID-19 relief loans—a request that Congress granted in the most recent round of coronavirus legislation.

However, USDA said last week that hemp farmers are specifically ineligible for its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. While the department initially said it would not reevaluate the crop’s eligibility based on new evidence, it removed that language shortly after Marijuana Moment reported on the exclusion.

Hemp farmers approved to produce the crop do stand to benefit from other federal loan programs, however. The department recently released guidelines for processing loans for the industry.

Louisiana Senate And House Both Approve Significant Medical Marijuana Expansion

Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

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