Marijuana in the USA has always been something of a taboo subject. From the free love and pot smoking days of the 60s to the harsh weed scare crisis of the Reagan years, marijuana has remained a boogeyman among Americans.
Either you loved it and smoked it in secret, or you opposed it and voted against its acceptance.
However, thanks to endless research papers and investigative journalism over the last several years, marijuana is finally transcending its reputation as an evil, devilish substance and at long last becoming known for what it really is: A fun plant with the potential to help a lot of people.
President Trump, now presiding over a Democrat Congress with partisan issues and controversies left and right, has been hinting that full, federal legalization of marijuana could be coming soon.
Is President Trump going to do it? Is he going to be the President that finally legalizes marijuana?
Why is President Trump Considering This?
President Trump’s presidency has been anything but regular; with a series of sudden victories and surprising support at every turn, Donald Trump rose from an infamous businessman with a TV show to a rising contender among Republican candidates. Even more surprising, he then actually won the presidency.
His current term has been racked with controversy after controversy, both in the changing political climate of a more technological and weed-friendly world, and in his own actions.
However, some pundits have speculated that President Trump represents something entirely different about the political landscape – no more do we have Presidents focused on decorum and avoiding upset among their base; now we have a President who seems to say whatever he wants and pass whatever bill he chooses.
It is for this reason that many supporters are considering Trump to be the president that will make the big leap and legalize marijuana.
If President Trump wants to do this though, he’s going to have a huge fight on his hands. Fierce opposition from his Republican base, still eminently concerned with marijuana’s status as a gateway drug and harboring some rather antiquated ideas about “The Devil’s Herb”, will mean that any effort at legalization will be met with backlash and anger.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why many people think it incredibly possible that he’ll finally pull the trigger and start widespread, federal legalization.
Federal Legalization for Epilepsy
All this talk about a massive milestone for marijuana with possible federal legalization is actually a bit too late, as we’ve already had our very first federal legalization of Weed, at least in part.
As of October 2018, cannabidiol, known as CBD and the non-psychoactive cousin of THC within cannabis, was federally legalized for use as a medicine to treat suffers of Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two extremely rare and extremely dangerous forms of epilepsy.
Though this landmark piece of legislation only legalizes one specific cannabinoid within cannabis for medical usage, and even then only for two very specific conditions, it represents a genuine effort by the federal government to actually put logic and reason first over party politics and legalize a component of marijuana.
After all, it’s really only a few small steps from legalization of CBD for medical use to full on federal recreational use.
The legalization of CBD only shows that, along with the growing wave of public opinion, the eventual legalization of marijuana is inevitable.
The Legalization of Marijuana: It’s Inevitable
Though marijuana used to be a thing of great evil throughout the USA, its reputation has, by now, completely changed.
It is difficult to find anyone in the country of a suitable age who has not tried it, whether in college or just as part of life. A significant part of this is the fact that essentially every member of congress (most likely) has also partaken in at some point or another.
This means that the federal government is currently supporting an active policy of criminalization of marijuana, but the entire population of the country that follows this law doesn’t really care.
This is easily noticeable in the huge wave of states legalizing marijuana, whether just medically or, in the case of 13 states currently, allowing full recreational marijuana. In each of the individual 50 states across the USA, more and more people are voting for full legalization and expressing their desire for the government to finally change.
It is an old adage that good lawmaking requires the rules and regulations of a society to be constantly updated and changed, with old rules thrown out if they no longer make sense. It’s not a huge leap from there to conclude that a President that wants to be remembered as a good leader will want to follow this path and remove laws that the people don’t agree with.
This all leads to it seeming pretty inevitable for Marijuana to be eventually legalized. The medical community is also beginning to back legalization, as both the official Global Drug Expert Committee and the National Cancer Institute have officially stated their desire for easily available marijuana for the purpose of treating medical conditions.
However, some people have been wary of the likelihood of President Trump legalizing marijuana due to his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and his policies on federal enforcement of marijuana.
However, that’s all changed now.
How Jeff Sessions’ Firing Changes Things
Jeff Sessions was appointed as the Attorney General of the USA in 2017, at the beginning of President Trump’s presidency. His tenure was viewed by many as a beginning of more right wing policies on law enforcement, most significantly because of his rescinding of the Cole Memorandum.
The Cole Memorandum was an open memo made during President Obama’s term, wherein he instructs all federal law enforcement and judiciary to not pursue any crimes related to marijuana consumption. In other words, Obama insisted to the judiciary branch to ignore marijuana-related crimes across the nation, as long as the state the crime took place in had legalized it.
This was considered a huge win for states’ rights, as well as for the individual, as they could reliably not have to fear federal intervention with their weed consumption. Remember, just because it might be legalized in your state doesn’t stop it being illegal on the federal level.
However, one of Jeff Sessions’ earliest acts as Attorney General was to officially rescind this, heralding in a new era of fear and worry among legalized states and pot-smokers alike. His official policy was rooted in enforcing federal laws over states’ rights, meaning that federal legalization is likely a far away prospect.
But President Trump recently asked Jeff Sessions to resign and appointed a replacement; this comes not as a consequence of his marijuana policy, but as a result of his leadership and actions regarding the Russian investigation.
The reason this is so important is that the person responsible for the removal of the Cole Memo has now gone – what will his successor do?
Now that Sessions is no longer the Attorney General, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the policy of this administration will be regarding marijuana.
Trump might use Sessions’ resignation as a trigger to finally push through marijuana legalization legislation, ending decades of cannabis prohibition.
Though we can’t know this for sure, Sessions’ resignation leaves the question open and allows speculation and change to occur. The new Attorney General might have a different policy, or the new Democrat-led congress might use this time to begin pushing for more lenient policies on Marijuana in general.
The real question, of course, is whether or not President Trump will do anything at all.
So, is President Trump Going to Legalize Marijuana?
At the end of the day, full marijuana legalization comes down to President Trump.
Though he doesn’t have to be the person to begin the legislation, he will eventually have to sign it into law, meaning he could veto it completely and try to do away with any congressional efforts at legalization.
What Trump will do is honestly anyone’s guess. His presidency has been filled with unpredictable actions and policy decisions, making any kind of prediction pretty impossible.
However, President Trump owes his presidency to one important group of voters that many other politicians might not consider so important – disenfranchised young people.
A huge proportion of Trump’s core voting block are the wave of disenfranchised, disgruntled young people that voted for the first or second time in 2016. These people raised him to prominence on the political stage, whether through donations to his Super Pac or just by posting about him on social media and voting for him first in the primaries, then in the general election.
To this audience, marijuana legalization is incredibly important, so it would make sense for President Trump to consider ending marijuana prohibition pretty important as well.
It’s no secret that Trump is aiming for a second term in 2020, so if he wants to maintain the loyalty and support of his core voting block, he likely needs to pass legislation like marijuana legalization to keep them happy.
Whether or not his Republican voting base will be in support of this is difficult to know.
President Trump stands at a crossroads in presidential history – will he be the President who ends marijuana prohibition for good, or will he ignore it and try to focus on other elements of his core voting block to win the 2020 election?
Now that the 2018 midterms are over, it’s likely we’ll see something about real federal legalization from President Trump sometime soon.
Let’s wait and see.