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Where Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Stands On Marijuana

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Entrepreneur Andrew Yang entered the race to become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee way back on November 6, 2017 and suspended his campaign on February 11, 2020.

While marijuana hasn’t played a central role in Yang’s campaign, he supports legalization and has proposed several drug policy reforms since announcing his candidacy. That includes plans to decriminalize opioid possession and provide waivers for military veterans to access medical cannabis.

This piece was last updated on February 11, 2020 to include the candidate’s statements and policy actions on marijuana since joining the race. It will continue to be updated on a rolling basis.

Legislation And Policy Actions

Yang has never before held public office, so he doesn’t have a record of policy accomplishments to review. Instead, in addition to being an entrepreneur, he’s worked in the nonprofit sector and as a philanthropist who has earned accolades for his efforts to create job opportunities for disadvantaged communities.

On The Campaign Trail

Since launching his campaign, Yang has advocated for ending marijuana prohibition, stating that “it’s already legal” in a growing number of states and that “criminalizing it does more harm than good.” He’s also pledged to “pardon those in prison for non-violent marijuana-related offenses.”

In January 2020, the candidate proposed legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes for military veterans. He previously said that the federal government should loosen its psychedelics laws to make substances like psilocybin “more freely available” for therapeutic use.

Yang said in a podcast interview that legalizing “certain drugs” could be one tool to combat drug cartel violence.

Another part of his campaign includes a bold proposal to decriminalize possession and use of opioids as a means of mitigating the drug crisis.

“While those who brought this plague on our citizens must face serious consequences, we need to make sure that those who are afflicted by the illness of addiction are treated and not criminalized,” the site states. “The individuals behind pharmaceutical companies who promoted these drugs as non-addictive while knowing better are the ones who belong in jail, not those who fell prey to addiction.”

“It is possible that criminalizing opiates decreases access and use. But for a public health crisis of this magnitude, the criminal justice system seems to be a terrible first resort. It pushes a lot of the activity underground and makes addicts more likely to hide their addiction. Addiction is a disease—you shouldn’t criminalize people that you are trying to help. Especially when it may be partially your fault that they got addicted in the first place.”

In December 2019, the candidate said that the government should invest in safe injection facilities where people can use illicit substances in a medically supervised environment to prevent overdoses and encourage them to seek treatment.

Yang was asked at a presidential debate about how he would fund his proposal to send people who overdose on opioids to mandatory, three-day treatment. He said that pharmaceutical companies should foot the bill.

“As president, we will take back those profits [from drug companies that market opioids] and put them to work right here in New Hampshire so that if you are seeking treatment, you have resources to be able to pursue it,” he said. “This is not a money problem fundamentally, this is a human problem. But money cannot be the obstacle.”

Yang drew attention in April when he said he’d pardon all non-violent drug offenders on the unofficial marijuana holiday 4/20.

“I would legalize marijuana and I would pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent, drug-related offense,” he said. “I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021 and I would high five them on their way out of jail.”

But shortly after making that pronouncement, Yang walked back his proposal, saying that only those convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses would be eligible under his mass clemency plan.

He also moved the date up for his proposed pardons, stating in a fundraising email in August that he would use his executive powers on his “first day as President” to pardon “every person imprisoned for a low-level, non-violent marijuana offense.”

In February 2020, Yang again talked about his pardon plan, this time with his two young sons playing on a stage during a New Hampshire campaign stop. He again seemed to shift the scope of the plan, however, saying he’d pardon everyone jailed “for a non-violent drug-related offense.”

His campaign website does state that the candidate would institute a policy of identifying non-violent drug offenders “for probation and potential early release.”

In December 2019, Yang contrasted rampant opioid prescriptions with the ongoing criminalization of marijuana.

He also tweeted that “[i]nstead of pardoning billionaires I’d pardon non-violent marijuana and opiate offenders.”

The candidate said that the “criminalization of marijuana is stupid and racist, particularly now that it’s legal in some states.”

“We should proceed with full legalization and pardon of those in jail for non-violent marijuana-related offenses,” he said.

“I’m for the legalization of marijuana, remove it from the controlled substance list in part because our administration of the criminal laws are deeply racist. It’s very obvious to everyone,” Yang said during an appearance on The Breakfast Club in March 2019. “On April 20, 2021, I’m going to pardon everyone who’s in prison for a non-violent drug offense because it makes no sense to have people in jail for stuff that’s legal in some parts of the country.”

He also made that point during an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience in February.

After former Vice President Joe Biden said that marijuana may be a gateway drug and that’s partly why he opposes legalization, Yang predicted that his opponent would “ end up evolving on this issue over time if he sees the same evidence that I have.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) attacked Biden over the remark during a presidential debate, joking that the candidate must have been high when he made it. Yang said the joke was “a good moment” for the senator but that it’s “not really my style to even make a joke like that towards Joe.”

The candidate shared photos of himself surrounded by dozens of trimmed marijuana plants at an unnamed facility in November.

“Marijuana should be legal nationwide,” he wrote on Twitter. “It is already legal in several states, it reflects a safer approach to pain relief than opiates, and our administration of drug laws is deeply uneven and racist.”

In October, Yang said that Canada legalized cannabis and that the U.S. “should follow suit and remove it from the federal controlled substance list and then regulate.”

In an interview with The Hill in September, the candidate reiterated that “in addition to decriminalizing marijuana, I would decriminalize opiates for personal use.”

“We need to decriminalize opioids for personal use. We need to let this country know this is not a personal failing, this was a systemic government failing,” Yang said during a Democratic presidential debate in October. “Then we need to open up safe consumption and safe injection sites around the country because they save lives.”

During a CNN town hall event in April, Yang pointed to countries such as Portugal that have decriminalized personal consumption of drugs, arguing that those engaged in drug trafficking should be held accountable in the criminal justice system but that those caught possessing small amounts of illicit substances should be referred to treatment.

However, he said his proposal would apply to opioids and specifically not cocaine because, he said, “the addiction has very different features.”

Yang also cited Portugal as an example of a country whose drug policy supports his proposal to decriminalize opioids in a Quora post in September.

“When you look around the world when they have decriminalized these drugs for personal use, so if you’re a dealer you go to jail but if you’re an addict and we catch you with the drugs, we don’t send you to jail we send you to counseling and treatment and this brings down both overdose rates and abuse rates over time,” he said in an interview with a Boston CBS affiliate.

In August, Yang started selling campaign merchandise that incorporated his passion for math and marijuana reform. For example, his site offers a $30 t-shirt that read, “Math. Money. Marijuana.”

The candidate also launched an online petition calling for marijuana legalization that month.

Yang released a plan that would provide military veterans with waivers so that they can access medical cannabis, even in states where it’s not legal.

“The scientific evidence that certain controlled substances—particularly marijuana—are particularly effective at treating certain ailments common to veterans (e.g., PTSD) and for pain management,” he said.

Asked if he felt any particular substances beside marijuana hold promise in the treatment of such conditions, Yang told Marijuana Moment through a Twitter direct message that MDMA represents one example of a drug that should be considered.

In August 2018, Yang wrote that while he’s for legalization, “many users do find it addictive and we should have intelligent safeguards in place like limiting advertising and THC levels. We should learn from our past.”

During a campaign stop in Portland, Yang signed a bong.

Andrew Yang signed a bong in Portland from YangForPresidentHQ

Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts

It does not appear that Yang discussed marijuana publicly or on social media prior to filing his presidential campaign with the Federal Election Commission in November 2017.

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Asked whether his plan to grant mass pardons to people with nonviolent marijuana convictions on 4/20 signaled that he used cannabis himself, Yang said it simply meant that he knows people who smoke it but that he hasn’t personally indulged.

“I was a pretty geeky Asian dude and, you know, my parents did a pretty good job of keeping me steering clear of certain things,” he told HOT 97 in April 2019. “I have many friends who partake.”

“I have a lot of friends who are using marijuana for medicinal and pain relief purposes,” he said. interview. “It’s much less lethal than let’s say opiates that are killing eight Americans every hour.”

Jokingly asked whether he had a favorite blunt wrap brand, the candidate said he “cannot speak to what my preference would be.”

In a later interview, Yang admitted that he used cannabis in a “past life.”

Marijuana Under A Yang Presidency

Though Yang is best known for his economic plans—namely providing each American with a universal basic income—he’s laid out several bold drug policy reform proposals throughout his campaign. While he hasn’t endorsed any particular piece of marijuana legislation, his support for legalization, and broader plans to eliminate criminal records for those with non-violent cannabis convictions, indicate he would be an ally in the marijuana reform movement if elected president.

Where Presidential Candidate Joe Sestak Stands On Marijuana

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Where President Trump Stands On Marijuana

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With the 2020 presidential election underway, people interested in legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs may find themselves wondering which candidate will do more to advance their causes: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden or incumbent President Donald Trump.

While Trump has not pursued a full-scale crackdown of state-legal cannabis programs and has voiced tentative support for modest reform legislation, his administration has made a number of hostile anti-marijuana actions—from rescinding Obama-era guidance on cannabis prosecutions to implementing policies making immigrants ineligible for citizenship if they consume marijuana or work in the cannabis industry.

Put simply, the president is a drug policy enigma. His past comments on drug policy, attitude toward state-level legalization efforts and administrative actions as president offer a dizzying portrait of a person who once said all drugs should be legal but who also appointed a vociferous anti-cannabis attorney general as one of his first acts in the White House.

Over the course of his first term in office, reform advocates have struggled to peg the president. On the one hand, he has not launched an all-out offensive on state-legal cannabis businesses and, in fact, said it was his administration’s policy that they could continue to operate unencumbered by the federal government despite prohibition remaining on the books. Trump also signed a bill federally legalizing hemp following decades of its prohibition. On the other hand, he’s declined to use his power to enact changes to legitimize the industry and has appointed several officials who hold hostile views toward reform.

In any case, the Trump reelection campaign has made clear it wants to depict the president as the criminal justice reform candidate, repeatedly attacking Biden over his record as an “architect” of punitive drug laws during his decades in the Senate, for example.

To help sort out where Trump stands on marijuana and drug policy in general, here’s an overview of policy actions his administration has taken and remarks he’s made both before and during his presidency.

Policy Actions And Comments As President

Support for states’ rights.

In 2018, the president gave advocates reason to celebrate. Asked whether he supports a bipartisan bill filed by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), which would allow states to set their own marijuana policies, Trump said “I really do.”

“I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it,” he said, referring to Gardner. “But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

He reiterated his support for a states’ rights approach to marijuana in August 2019, saying it’s “a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision. A lot of states are making that decision, but we’re allowing states to make that decision.”

Gardner, who held up Justice Department nominations in protest of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s move in order to generate a cannabis commitment from the president, told Marijuana Moment in an interview that Trump typically makes “very supportive” comments about cannabis reform when they’ve talked.

“It’s all been positive. And I think we’re seeing that,” he said. “Had they wanted to do something, they’d do what Jeff Sessions did and mess around with that and they haven’t.”

Current Attorney General William Barr has said that he’s not interested in upsetting “settled expectations” as it concerns policies in place while the Cole memo was still effective.

“However, I think the current situation is untenable and really has to be addressed. It’s almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law,” he said during a hearing last year, later adding that he would prefer that Congress pass legislation codifying protections for states that have legalized cannabis rather than maintain the status quo of conflicting state and federal policies.

To date, no large-scale marijuana raids against licensed businesses in legal states have taken place under the Trump administration.

Trump’s personal opinion on cannabis consumption and drug policy reform is a mixed bag.

Despite his pledged support for states’ rights to legalize, Trump evidently holds some negative views toward cannabis consumption, as evidenced in a recording from 2018 that was leaked two years later. In that recording, the president said that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points.”

In August 2020, Trump weighed in on Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) prior comments on marijuana shortly after she was announced as Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate. While the president declined to explicitly discuss the senator’s cannabis policy positions, he said “she lied” and “said things that were untrue” when presented with details about an interview she gave last year in which she discussed smoking marijuana in college.

He also urged Republicans not to place marijuana legalization initiatives on state ballots out of concern that it could increase Democratic turnout in elections. A Republican strategist told The Daily Beast that, as far as Trump is concerned, the “pot issue is one of many that he thinks could be a danger.”

“He once told me it would be very ‘smart’ for the Democrat[ic] Party to get as many of these on the ballot as they could,” the source said.

In February 2020, the president applauded countries that impose the death penalty for people who sell drugs—a point he has repeatedly made. “I don’t know that our country is ready for that,” Trump said in the more recent comment, “but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty—death penalty—with a fair but quick trial, they have very little if any drug problem.”

That said, the president in 2019 seemed to acknowledge the failure of policies prohibiting drugs during a meeting on vaping, stating that banned products are “going to come here illegally” even if they’re prohibited.

Curiously, Trump proposed mandating that he and Biden take drug tests prior to participating in general election debates.

The president signed “right to try” legislation in 2018 that allows terminal patients to access drugs that haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but have cleared a phase one trial—a move that some advocates say could let a limited number of people use marijuana, psilocybin and MDMA for therapeutic reasons.

Administrative marijuana and drug policy actions.

One of the administration’s most widely publicized actions—and one that caused acute panic among marijuana advocates and stakeholders—happened in January 2018, when Sessions rescinded the Obama-era Cole memo. Under that policy, federal prosecutors were advised to generally not pursue action against individuals for state-legal cannabis-related activity, except under a limited set of circumstances.

Its revocation worried many that a federal crackdown was looming, especially with longtime prohibitionist Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department. However, that fear was not realized—and according to Gardner, Trump personally opposed the move and said “we need undo this.”

“This sounds like something my grandpa said in the 1950s,” Trump reportedly said, referencing Sessions’s rhetoric when rescinding the policy.

The Justice Department recently asked a federal court to force California marijuana regulators to disclose documents about certain licensed cannabis businesses, and a federal court ruled that they must comply.

Another controversial administrative action concerns immigrants and marijuana. In April 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a memo stating that using marijuana or engaging in cannabis-related “activities” such as working for a dispensary—even in states where it’s legal—makes immigrants ineligible for citizenship because it means they don’t have “good moral character.”

In December 2019, the Justice Department issued a notice that it was seeking to make certain marijuana offenses, including misdemeanor possession, grounds to deny asylum to migrants.

That month, officials with Trump’s U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also testified against several pieces of legislation that would increase access to medical cannabis for service members and also require the department to conduct clinical research into the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for conditions that commonly afflict veterans.

Using funds provided by a salary donation from Trump, the Surgeon General issued and publicized a warning in August 2019, cautioning against marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women. The notice also suggested that the state-level cannabis legalization movement was enticing young people to consume marijuana by normalizing the plant.

BuzzFeed News reported in 2018 that the Trump administration created a secret committee that requested agencies across the federal government submit memos on how to combat public support for cannabis reform.

Trump’s Justice Department in 2019 sided with a Mississippi student who filed a lawsuit against his school after he was allegedly prevented from talking about the issue earlier this year, arguing that the First Amendment protects students who discuss legalization and that restrictive policies prohibiting such free expression at public schools are unconstitutional.

FDA under Trump has on several occasions solicited public comments to help inform the country’s position on the potential global reclassification of marijuana.

The Internal Revenue Service in September 2020 released updated guidance on tax policy for the marijuana industry, including instructions on how cannabis businesses that don’t have access to bank accounts can pay their tax bills using large amounts of cash.

Administration’s hemp regulatory actions following Trump signing legalization into law.

One of the most significant cannabis developments to occur under the Trump administration was the federal legalization of hemp that was accomplished when he signed the 2018 Farm Bill—unleashing a massive market for a crop that had been prohibited for more than 80 years as a federally controlled substance. The move elicited bipartisan praise, and Trump’s U.S. Department of Agriculture has put significant resources into implementing the reform.

That said, advocates, lawmakers and industry stakeholders have raised several concerns about proposed rules for hemp such as requiring that the crop be tested for THC contents by only Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-certified labs.

DEA also released proposed rules for hemp and CBD in August 2020 to put the federal agency officially in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. However, some industry players suspect that the agency is really setting the stage to crack down on the newly legal market.

In September 2020, USDA announced that hemp farmers could qualify for coronavirus relief loans, reversing an earlier decision to exclude the crop based on price decline data amid the pandemic.

Also in 2020, the department made hemp farmers eligible for relief programs if they’ve experienced damage or losses due to a natural disaster.

White House officials met with several hemp industry groups in the summer of 2020 to discuss pending FDA guidance on enforcement policies for CBD products.

Speaking of FDA, the agency has similarly been in the process of developing regulations for CBD to be marketed as a food item or dietary supplement. In the meantime, it has used enforcement discretion to keep the market in check.

The agency has continued to issue warnings to cannabis businesses in certain cases—such as instances in which companies claimed CBD could treat or cure coronavirus—and provide public notices about recalls.

FDA also recently closed a comment period on separate draft guidance on developing cannabis-derived medications.

Cannabis and the Trump budget.

While Trump has spoken out in favor of medical cannabis legalization, on several occasions he has released signing statements on spending legislation stipulating that he reserves the right to ignore a long-standing rider that prohibits the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

He also proposed deleting the rider altogether in multiple annual budget proposals to Congress, though Obama did the same thing when he was in office.

In 2019, the White House released a budget request that proposed slightly scaling back restrictive language that has prevented Washington, D.C. from spending its own tax dollars to legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana.

Under several budget proposals, the administration has called for significant cuts to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a central agency when it comes to setting federal drug policy and upholding prohibition.

Trump administration personnel and cannabis.

A top spokesperson for Trump’s reelection campaign raised eyebrows in February 2020 when he said that the administration’s policy is that currently illicit drugs, including cannabis, “need to be kept illegal.”

During a press briefing in July 2018, then-Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the newly elected Mexican president’s suggestion that legalizing and regulating drugs could curtail cartels. She said the administration didn’t have any policy announcements to that end; however, “I can say that we would not support the legalization of all drugs anywhere and certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that would allow more drugs to come into this country.”

The president also named then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), as his chief of staff in March 2020. As a member of Congress, Meadows consistently voted against marijuana reform amendments and was one of only a handful of lawmakers who cheered Sessions’s move to rescind the Obama-era cannabis guidance.

Trump’s stance on cannabis legalization became the jumping off point for a spat between a top White House aide, Republican operatives and a reporter in June after Meadows laughed off a question about the prospects of broad marijuana reform advancing before the election in November.

In April 2020, Trump hired a new press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, who has a long record of speaking out against legalization.

Barr, the current attorney general, allegedly directed the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division to carry out investigations into 10 marijuana mergers out of personal animus for the industry. A whistleblower who testified before a key House committee claimed the investigations were unnecessary and wasted departmental resources. But the assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division later argued that the investigations were actually “consistent with protecting consumers’ access to cannabis products, not with animosity toward the industry.”

During a speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention at which Trump was renominated for a second term, the granddaughter of Evangelical preacher Billy Graham took issue with Democratic governors who designated cannabis dispensaries as essential services amid the coronavirus pandemic while imposing restrictions on churches. In a separate convention speech, an advisory board member for Trump’s reelection campaign claimed that Democrats’ push for universal health care is really about ensuring a right to cannabis access.

Meanwhile, the head of the Republican National Committee (RNC), who was recommended for the position by Trump, dodged a question about where the party stands on medical marijuana and stressed that the issue should be addressed at the state level.

After House leadership announced in August 2020 that the chamber would be voting on a bill to federally legalize marijuana, the director of press communications for the president’s reelection campaign tweeted, “House Dems—more worried about pot dealers than providing relief for the American people.” (That vote was ultimately postponed.)

Pre-Presidency Comments

It might come as a surprise, but 30 years ago, Trump argued in favor of legalizing all drugs.

“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,” he said. “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 so people will start to realize that this is the only answer; there is no other answer.”

Then, 25 years later, he was at the Conservative Political Action Conference stating that he thinks marijuana legalization is “bad” and that he feels “strongly about that.”

“They’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado, some big problems,” he said.

But the candidate clarified that he supports states’ rights to set their own marijuana laws, saying, “If they vote for it, they vote for it.”

“Medical marijuana is another thing,” he added. “I think medical marijuana, 100 percent.”

“Medical I agree with. Medical I like,” he said similarly in 2016. “Medical is OK.”

“I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I mean I think so,” he said at a 2015 rally in Nevada. “I know people that are very, very sick and for whatever reason, the marijuana really helps them.”

He went on to say that “I really believe you should leave it up to the states” when it comes to recreational legalization. “It should be a state situation… In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”

Trump reiterated in a radio interview in 2016 that adult-use legalization has “got to be a state decision.”

“Colorado did it as you know and I guess it’s very mixed right now, they haven’t really made a final determination,” he said. “There seems to be certain health problems with it and that would be certainly bothersome.”

“I do like it, you know, from a medical standpoint — it does do pretty good things,” he added “But from the other standpoint, I think that should be up to the states. Certainly, from a medical standpoint, a lot of people are liking it.”

Legalization of drugs is “something that should be studied and maybe should continue to be studied,” Trump told ABC’s This Week in 2015.

“But it’s not something I’d be willing to do right now,” he added. “I think it’s something that I’ve always said maybe it has to be looked at because we do such a poor job of policing. We don’t want to build walls. We don’t want to do anything. And if you’re not going to want to do the policing, you’re going to have to start thinking about other alternatives. But it’s not something that I would want to do. But it’s something that certainly has been looked at and I looked at it. If we police properly, we shouldn’t do that.”

In a 2016 radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Trump seemed more skeptical about cannabis legalization, saying that “there are a lot of bad things happening in Colorado with people’s health. And if you look at the results, you know, they’re getting some pretty bad results.”

“Plus, it’s being taken all over the place. I mean, I would have to look at it very seriously,” he said. “Now I think if you talk about medical, you’re talking about a different ball of wax. But there are a lot of bad results happening in Colorado, and people are talking about it. I’m reading about it. So I would be looking at a couple of different things, but I really would want to study it further, because they’re doing a lot of studies. But you know, some bad medical reports and some bad, bad things are happening with what’s going on in Colorado.”

Discussing legalization during a Fox News interview, Trump said that “in Colorado, the book isn’t written on it yet.”

“There’s a lot of difficulty in terms of illness and what’s going on with the brain and the mind and what it’s doing,” he said. “In some ways I think it’s good and in other ways it’s bad.”

But he reiterated that he supports medical cannabis, saying that “I know people that have serious problems and they did that and it really does help them.”

“By the way, medical marijuana—medical—I am in favor of it 100 percent,” he said.

At a Wisconsin campaign rally in 2016, Trump said he is “watching Colorado very carefully, see what’s happening out there. I’m getting some very negative reports, I’m getting some OK reports, but I’m getting some very negative reports coming out of Colorado as to what’s happening, so we’ll see what happens.”

“There’s a lasting negative impact [from marijuana use]. You do too much of it… There’s a loss of something, so that book has not been written yet but it’s gonna be written pretty soon and I’m not hearing very positive things,” he said, adding that on medical cannabis, “I think I am basically for that. I’ve heard some wonderful things in terms of medical.”

Trump told MSNBC in 2015 that “I don’t really think” people should go to jail for marijuana. However, he added that “I think that maybe the dealers have to be looked at very strongly.”

“You have states all of a sudden legalizing it. So it’s sort of hard to say that you’re in one side of the border and you go to jail and you’re on the other side and can you go into a store and buy it,” he said. “So there is going to be changes made there, Joe, and there has to be… That is a very tough subject nowadays, especially since it’s been legalized and will continue to be legalized.”

In another interview with Fox News, he drew a contrast between recreational and medical marijuana consumption.

The former is “a big problem” that has “tremendously damaging effects to the mind, to the brain, to everything,” he said. But he also said he’s “all for medical marijuana and its help.”

In July 2016, Trump was asked whether he would allow former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) crack down on legal marijuana states if he were to become attorney general.

“I wouldn’t do that, no,” Trump said. “I think it’s up to the states. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Trump said in a radio interview in 2016 that “I never have smoked it.”

He also wrote in one of his books, “The America We Deserve,” that’s he’s never used cannabis or any other drug. “I’ve never taken drugs of any kind, never had a glass of alcohol. Never had a cigarette, never had a cup of coffee,” he said.

In an interview with Fox News in 2016, Trump said, “No I have not [smoked marijuana]. I would tell you 100 percent because everyone else seems to admit it nowadays… I’ve never smoked a cigarette either.”

Part of his aversion to drug use seems to be linked to his brother’s death from alcoholism. “He had a profound impact on my life, because you never know where you’re going to end up,” Trump said.

That said, the president said on several occasions during his first election bid that he personally knows people who have benefitted from using medical cannabis.

Marijuana Under A Second Trump Term

It’s hard to say how Trump will approach marijuana policy if elected to a second term. The past four years have given good reason to assume that a federal crackdown is unlikely, but at the same time, the president hasn’t signaled at any point that he’d be proactive at pursuing reform. From an administrative standpoint, it seems possible that the status quo would be maintained.

What the second term’s impact on cannabis may largely come down to is the makeup of Congress. If Democrats hold the House and retake control of the Senate, there’s broad expectations that they will advance some form of marijuana reform legislation to the president’s desk—whether it be occupied by Trump or Biden. It’s not clear whether Trump would sign or veto a far-reaching bill that House Democrats have signaled they want to advance which would deschedule cannabis and fund social equity efforts to repair some of the harms of the war on drugs. If Republicans maintain their Senate majority, a more limited bipartisan bill to simply exempt state-legal marijuana activity could get a shot—and the incumbent president has already indicated he would support it.

Then again, this president has been inconsistent in his views on marijuana and drug policy over the years, so it’s hard to predict where he might come down on the issue if given another four years in the White House.

Where Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Stands On Marijuana

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Politics

American Medical Association Asks Mississippi Voters To Reject Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative

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A medical marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on Mississippi’s November ballot is being targeted by two medical associations that are pushing voters to reject the policy change.

With weeks left until the vote, the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) and American Medical Association (AMA) are circulating a sample ballot that instructs voters on how to reject the activist-led measure. For supporters and opponents alike, the way the ballot is structured can be confusing—a product of the legislature approving an alternative that appears alongside Initiative 65.

“The purpose is to defeat Initiative 65. Initiative 65A will allow the legislature to enact changes to the law, which would not be possible with Initiative 65,” the opposition campaign document states. “MSMA is asking for you to join us in educating and encouraging our population to vote against Initiative 65.”

Via MSMA.

This marks the latest obstacle that reform advocates are facing as they work to inform the electorate about how to fill out the ballot to pass their proposal. Despite polls that show support for medical cannabis legalization at 81 percent in Mississippi, opponents aren’t acquiescing to public opinion.

MSMA President Mark Horne told WLBT-TV last week that the organization was asked to review the initiative and that “it was immediately clear that this is an effort focused on generating profits for an industry that has no ties to the medical or health care community in Mississippi.”

But according to Jamie Grantham, communications director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care (MCC), that talking point has only recently been aired and the campaign didn’t receive that feedback until MSMA mounted this opposition push. She told Marijuana Moment on Monday that the group’s steering committee is composed of several physicians who also had a hand in drafting the measure’s language—and that includes doctors who are part of MSMA.

“Ultimately, it boils down to patients being able to have access to this through their physician. They need to be able to have that conversation with them,” she said. “If certain physicians don’t see a benefit to that, that’s fine. But lots of other physicians do, and that’s evidenced undeniably in the 34 other states with medical marijuana programs where patients are receiving relief.”

AMA President Susan Bailey argued that “amending a state constitution to legalize an unproven drug is the wrong approach,” adding that there are concerns about youth exposure and impaired driving.

That said, a scientific journal published by AMA has printed research showing the advantages of broad marijuana legalization, however, with one recent study showing that people in states where recreational cannabis is legal were significantly less likely to experience vaping-related lung injuries than those in states where it is prohibited.

The organization has long maintained an opposition to legalization but has called for a review of marijuana’s restrictive federal Schedule I status.

Marijuana Moment reached out to AMA for comment, but a representative did not respond by the time of publication.

If the Mississippi campaign’s measure passes, it would allow patients with debilitating medical issues to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The proposal includes 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.

In June, lawmakers introduced yet another medical cannabis alternative resolution that would’ve posed an additional threat to the activist-driven reform initiative. But, to advocates’ relief, the legislation didn’t advance before lawmakers went home for the summer.

Nebraska Activists Unveil New Medical Marijuana Initiative For 2022 Following Supreme Court Defeat

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Nebraska Activists Unveil New Medical Marijuana Initiative For 2022 Following Supreme Court Defeat

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Nebraska activists on Monday announced they are filing a new medical marijuana ballot initiative after an earlier version got shot down by the state Supreme Court this month.

The previous proposal had already collected enough signatures from voters and qualified for this November’s ballot, but a local sheriff filed a challenge, arguing that it violated the state’s single-subject rule that prohibits measures that deal with multiple issues. The secretary of state’s office rejected that claim, but the case went to court and a majority of justices ultimately ruled that the proposal would be removed from the ballot.

While advocates are disappointed that the state won’t have the opportunity to enact the policy change this year, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana didn’t waste any time putting together a new initiative that they feel will pass the single-subject test and appear on the 2022 ballot.

Language of the new proposal simply states: “Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes.”

Of course, that simplified text might satisfy the ballot policy, but it leaves an open questions about what—if any—regulated market would provide people with access to cannabis. It also doesn’t define eligibility, so that right to marijuana would appear to be unrestricted as long as person purports to use it for therapeutic reasons.

Those questions, if they remain unanswered by the campaign, could prove to be a sticking point for voters who would otherwise support regulated access to medical cannabis but might be uncomfortable with what could be a “free-for-all” situation that opponents have locked activists into with the single-subject challenge.

That said, the advocacy group says it plans to follow up the new simple constitutional amendment with “trailing statutory initiatives to set up a safe and secure medical cannabis system in Nebraska” if lawmakers fail to pass any medical marijuana  legislation over the next year. That’s similar to how casino gaming supporters are pursuing their issue with companion constitutional and statutory ballot measures.

Under this year’s blocked initiative, physicians would have been able to recommend cannabis to patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions, and those patients would then have been allowed to possess, purchase and “discreetly” cultivate marijuana for personal use.

Sens. Anna Wishart (D) and Adam Morfeld (D), cochairs of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, have tried for years to pass medical cannabis bills in the legislature only to be blocked by opposition from leadership.

Now, between the Supreme Court defeat and legislative inaction, they’re charting a new path.

“Families with loved ones suffering from conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, Parkinson’s, and cancer have fought for years to make medical cannabis safely accessible in our state as it is in 33 other states,” Wishart said in a press release. “This year over 190,000 Nebraskans successfully petitioned our government during a pandemic for that right, and despite receiving qualification from the Secretary of State, our initiative was removed from the ballot by a 5-2 vote from Nebraska’s Supreme Court. We will not give up and intend to bring this fight to the legislature in January with a bill that I will introduce and to the ballot in 2022.”

Morfeld added that the “new petition language indisputably presents a single subject and makes medical cannabis a constitutional right.”

“Then following with several statutory initiatives, we will establish a safe and regulated medical cannabis system,” he said. “Nebraskans have a constitutional right to petition their government, and we will not stop until they can exercise their right and have their voices heard on medical cannabis.”

While the timing isn’t ideal as far as advocates are concerned, given that presidential election years are typically targeted by cannabis reform supporters because of relatively larger turnout by supporters as compared to midterm cycles, 2022 is the next option they’re left with. That said, it’s possible that the continuing momentum for reform via the ballot could spur legislators to take up the issue in the meantime.

For what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general said in an opinion last year that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”

New Jersey Marijuana Campaign Launches First Ad As Poll Shows Support For Legalization Referendum

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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