Connect with us

Politics

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

Published

on

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of which was first reported by CNBC, was conducted roughly two weeks after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference.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 15-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

Marijuana Banking Bill Would Save Federal Money, Congressional Budget Office Says

Published

on

The federal government would save money if a bipartisan bill to give marijuana businesses access to banks is approved, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Friday.

The legislation, which cleared the House Financial Services Committee in a bipartisan vote of 45 to 15 in March, would change federal law to protect financial institutions that service the cannabis industry from being penalized by regulators. That reform would set off a chain of events, beginning with a likely increase in the number of banks accepting deposits from those businesses, CBO reasoned.

Assuming the bill takes effect near the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the office estimates that starting in 2022, banks would see a $1.2 billion increase in deposits, and credit union deposits would grow by $200 million. By 2029, the amounts “would rise to $2.1 billion and $350 million, respectively.”

Because those deposits would have to be insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the CBO took into account the possibility that individual financial institutions will fail, and the estimated cost of resolving those failures is $5 million.

That said, those direct spending costs would be “offset by assessments levied on insured financial institutions,” which would amount to about $9 million.

“As a result, CBO estimates, H.R. 1595 would decrease net direct spending by $4 million over the 2019-2029 period,” the office reported.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the bill’s chief sponsor, told Marijuana Moment that its enactment would have benefits beyond fiscal savings.

“Getting cash off our streets and making our communities safer will come at no cost to the federal government and actually save money while providing a much-needed long-term banking solution for legitimate marijuana businesses across the country,” he said.

Via CBO.

“This CBO score should only increase the significant momentum in Congress behind passing the SAFE Banking Act,” Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation, told Marijuana Moment. “It is now apparent that we can help diminish a serious threat to public safety at no net cost to the federal government. We look forward to the bill passing through the House and hope the Senate will follow suit.”

There are some implementation costs to take into account, CBO says. The administrative costs are estimated to be $3 million. But the FDIC and NCUA are able to charge premiums on the financial institutions they regulate to cover much of those costs. The total net administrative costs would, therefore, be about $1 million.

The Federal Reserve would also have to spend funds to implement the bill, and that would reduce remittances to the Treasury Department. Those remittances are considered revenue, which is expected to decrease by about $1 million if the legislation is implemented.

Then there are costs related to other provisions of the bill. Financial regulators would have to update and issue new guidance, which would “cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2024 period.”

The legislation also requires the Government Accountability Office to study barriers to entry in the marijuana industry and to financial services for minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses. The costs are estimated to be less than $500,000 annually from 2020 to 2024.

The CBO also estimated that enacting the legislation “would not increase on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2030.”

The CBO outlined “several noteworthy areas of uncertainty” that could change the calculus.

1. New guidance from federal financial regulators could be more or less stringent than existing guidance implemented under the Obama administration, which could impact the amount of deposits banks and credit unions will receive.

2. Data on cannabis-related deposits is currently “limited,” as federal restrictions have forced marijuana businesses to operate on a largely cash basis. That means CBO’s estimates on the amount of deposits financial institutions will see could end up being “greater or smaller.”

3. If those estimates do end up being different, costs associated with the bank and credit union insurance funds “could be higher or lower depending on the amount of premium collections and capital deposits and on changes in the resolution costs for financial institutions.”

Sahar Ayinehsazian, an associate attorney at Vicente Sederberg LLP who specializes in cannabis banking, told Marijuana Moment that most of the figures lined up with her expectations. However, given that many marijuana businesses have gravitated toward credit unions rather than banks, she said the estimate increase in deposits to those financial institutions may well end up being larger.

“Looking at the chances of this legislation passing from an economic standpoint, I think [the CBO score is] good news,” she said.

Other advocates agreed that the CBO estimate should help efforts to advance the bill.

“For years, cannabis advocates have been preaching the net benefits SAFE Banking would have on consumers, patients, financial institutions, regulators and taxpayers. This CBO cost estimate confirms that,” Michael Correia, director of government relations for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Marijuana Moment. “The increase of insured deposits, coming from the added certainty this legislation brings, far outweighs the minor administrative costs to implement this bill.”

The House marijuana banking bill currently has 184 cosponsors, and a companion Senate version has 30 lawmakers signed on. The committee of jurisdiction in the upper chamber has not yet set a hearing or a vote, but pressure is increasing.

Banking associations from all 50 states urged the Senate to take up the legislation earlier this week. Other organizations that have called for a resolution to the cannabis banking dilemma include the National Association of Attorneys General, which has endorsed the bill, and the National Association of State Treasurers, representing state treasurers and finance officials, which adopted a resolution last week in favor of the legislation’s passage.

The new analysis is just the third time that the CBO, which is mandated to score bills that pass full committees, has issued a report on the economic impact of standalone cannabis legislation. The agency scored two marijuana research bills that cleared committees last year.

Federal Small Business Administration Pressed On Supporting Marijuana Industry

This story was updated to include comment from Perlmutter and Correia.

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

Federal Small Business Administration Pressed On Supporting Marijuana Industry

Published

on

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) pressed a federal official responsible for advocating for small businesses on Wednesday about whether existing laws and regulations are preventing the growth of state-legal marijuana markets.

The line of questioning comes as members of Congress are preparing legislation aimed at removing barriers to small business assistance for cannabis industry participants.

The senator said at a hearing of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee that her state’s legal industry is attracting small businesses and entrepreneurs who are selling millions of dollars of product each month. She asked Major Clark, acting chief counsel of the office of advocacy at the Small Business Administration (SBA), about the unique barriers these companies face under federal prohibition.

“Senator, that’s a difficult question,” Clark replied. “We have not actually studied the issue of marijuana in that regard, and we have not because the federal government has not yet legalized it.”

“We do, in conversations with a lot of businesses, get inquires as to what they can do and how they can do it. But to actually do an analysis of it, we have not yet done that,” he said. “I’m sure that as soon as the federal government decides to legalize this substance, we will begin to study its impact and the ability to use it in a more economical context within the state.”

Watch the conversation about small business assistance for cannabis operators at 35:50 in the video below:

Rosen followed up to get Clark’s opinion about whether marijuana companies would benefit from some of the guidelines and resources the SBA offers to small businesses in other industries.

“These types of businesses can benefit from some of these types of things, but again, because this issue is an issue that has not reached the surface of being legalized, we have actually stayed away from trying to advise these businesses on these particular aspects,” he said.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), chair of the committee, weighed in on the issue after the Rosen’s time expired, saying that he recognizes the difficulty that federal agencies face when it comes to regulating a controlled substance.

“It is a unique challenge dealing with a Schedule I drug on the federal side and to also know that some states, including my own, have said that they want to allow it,” Lankford said, referring to the medical cannabis law that Oklahoma voters approved in 2018. “And the federal government and the [Food and Drug Administration] continues to study it and say there’s no medicinal gain from this product.”

“It’s a Schedule I drug. I get it,” he said. “The science, and whether it is SBA or whoever it is continues to be able to deal with that.”

While lawmakers push to get marijuana businesses access to federally authorized financial services, industry advocates say that SBA-specific reform legislation may be on the horizon.

The day after Rosen questioned the SBA official about cannabis policy, Khurshid Khoja, a board member for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said at a press conference on Capitol Hill that a bill was being drafted to “essentially get SBA services for cannabis businesses and for cannabis businesses from disproportionately impacted communities.”

Watch the SBA reform discussion at about 32:15 in the video below:

“The House Small Business Committee is looking into the issue and is interested in holding a hearing and drafting legislation this summer that addresses these issues,” a cannabis policy lobbyist who didn’t wish to be named in order to discuss plans that are in development, told Marijuana Moment separately.

GOP Congressman Exposes Flaws In VA Marijuana Research Projects

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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.
Continue Reading

Politics

GOP Congressman Exposes Flaws In VA Marijuana Research Projects

Published

on

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) emphasized the importance conducting clinical trials on medical marijuana at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Tuesday, a topic on which he has often focused.

He also criticized the catch-22 of VA cannabis research, arguing that while the department is able to conduct clinical trials on marijuana, it doesn’t effectively publicize those studies, leaving veterans who might be interested in participating in the dark.

The congressman started by asking whether Mike Colston, director of mental health policy and oversight at the Department of Defense, felt that giving veterans access to medical cannabis could reduce suicides.

Colston said “there’s far more research to be done” and that there’s “insufficient evidence for or against that position.”

Gaetz cited research showing reductions in opioid use in states that have loosened cannabis laws, and he questioned whether “the current offramp for opioid addiction,” which typically involves prescribing long-term opioids that are less potent and less prone to abuse, “is a more effective offramp than medical cannabis.”

“I just think those are the three evidence-based therapies right now that meet the medical bar,” Colston said, referring to bupenehprine, methadone and naltrexone. “Obviously more research can change that.”

That prompted Gaetz to expand on VA policy as it pertains to medical cannabis. He asked for confirmation that the department’s doctors cannot currently recommend marijuana to veterans in states where it’s legal.

They can’t do that because “there’s a federal law against it right now,” Keita Franklin, national director of suicide prevention at the VA, claimed. (This has been a point of contention for legalization advocates, who argue that only the VA’s own internal administrative policies, and not an overarching federal law, blocks such recommendations.)

But VA officials can conduct clinical trials on marijuana, Franklin said.

“We have two ongoing research studies going on right now in this space,” she said. “I think we are open to research, yes.”

The congressman wanted to know if the VA publishes information about these studies and where to find it. The VA official wasn’t sure—and that was exactly Gaetz’s point.

“I don’t think anyone is clear, which is the source of my frustration because I think that there are a lot of these clinical trials that are seeking veterans,” he said. “The VA, due to a lack of clarity, won’t publicize that information or make it available, and then we’re unable to do the research that Captain Colston says is necessary to advance additional options for veterans trying to get off opioids and to stop them from killing themselves.”

Lawmakers have introduced legislation this session that would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations and require the department to conduct clinical trials on the plant’s potential therapeutic benefits for veterans, among other cannabis and veterans-related bills.

But if the VA is mandated to research the plant, Gaetz wants the department to better publicize the studies so that would-be participants actually know about them.

Trump Official Would Rather Discuss Marijuana Than President’s Tax Returns, He Says

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

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.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Stay Up To The Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox