Ed. note: Brian Darling co-authored this piece.
Candidates tend to make bold promises to get into office, then they break those promises. Duh. Whether you agree with him or not, President Donald J. Trump has kept an awful lot of his promises so far. He’s working to complete his promises on immigration, Obamacare repeal and tax reform while also completing a promise to nominate a strong constitutionalists to the judicial branch (Neil Gorsuch, anyone?). Yet when it comes to lower-profile yet critically important issues such as medical marijuana, President Trump’s own Justice Department has been actively undermining candidate Trump’s numerous, clear promises to respect the right of states to pass laws that allow for it.
This is important.
Candidate Trump was always very clear in his many promises on medical marijuana. In October of 2015, Trump said at a rally in Nevada “the marijuana thing is such a big thing. I think medical should happen” and then on a Michigan radio station in March of 2016 he said “I think that it should be up to the states.” Trump even went on Fox News during the campaign and said of medical marijuana “I’m in favor of it a hundred percent.” Trump’s support for medical marijuana was unequivocal and considered to be a solemn promise to the voters who put him in office.
And then came Attorney General Jeff Sessions with his strange mantra. You know the one: “Goot peuhpul don’ smoke murrijuana....”
On June 12, 2017 MassRoots published an excerpt from a Sessions letter to Congress demanding that Congressional leaders not include a planned provision in the appropriations bill to prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. Sessions wrote to the Congressional leadership:
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the (DOJ) to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
Since 2014, Congress has included the so called “Rohrabacher-Farr,” (now known as “Rohrabacher-Blumenauer”) rule in appropriations bills which would defund the ability of the Justice Department to use federal power to usurp state laws allowing medical marijuana use, distribution, possession or cultivation.
Sessions was successful in convincing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) to prevent the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment from coming to a vote. In the Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was successful in voice-voting this language to the Senate version of the appropriations bill that funds the Justice Department. Now it is up to Congress in the year-end spending bill whether the will of candidate Trump and an overwhelming majority of both Houses (and, um, Americans) or the Attorney General will win the day.
The good news? There are a heck of a lot of good people whom Trump pays close attention to working very hard to support Trump’s pledge not to turn back the clock on this and similar issues. A few of many come to mind:
Free the People, led by the formidable duo of veteran libertarian activists Matt and Terry Kibbe, have been doing incredible work on this front.
The president’s own longtime friend and advisor Roger Stone recently announced the formation of the United States Cannabis Coalition, a “bi-partisan pro-cannabis special project dedicated to pressing federal-level decision makers to honor state mandated marijuana laws and reform our antiquated and failed federal drug laws.” The advisory board members of Stone’s effort includes an impressive slate of sometime-strange bedfellows ranging from the aforementioned Kibbes to Bill Maher, Curtis Sliwa, Judge Andrew Napolitano, famed trial attorney John Morgan (the group’s co-founder), and even your authors, amongst others.
Suffice to say this is an issue that unites most on the left and right, as well as those who advocate for combat veterans and individuals who use marijuana for medical needs.
And there are of course related issues like sentencing reform which naturally fall under the banner...but that’s another column.
Candidate Trump was clear and President Trump must instruct his Attorney General about the solemn promise he made to the American people on the non-negoatiable policing decision of the states with regard to medical marijuana.
And he must settle the question, sooner, rather than later.