With presidential elections six months away, what would a Donald Trump re-election mean for cannabis reform?
It goes without saying that the past 12 months have been challenging, particularly for the cannabis industry. There were CEO scandals and step-downs, the vaping crisis toward the end of last year, and now, of course, the COVID-19 crisis.
Economies have been ravaged, unemployment has skyrocketed globally, and cannabis stocks have continued to plummet downward.
Though interestingly, there have also been some silver linings amid this difficult period. The vaping crisis of 2019 was found to be largely attributable to black-market vaporizers, and cannabis dispensaries were deemed “essential” amid the coronavirus pandemic, solidifying their place in society as cannabis sales climbed while virtually every other industry collapsed.
In some ways, the COVID-19 crisis has shown us precisely how embedded cannabis dispensaries have already become in U.S. culture, particularly for medicinal patients.
Though with all of this going on, it can be easy to forget that there’s a presidential election in November, between the incumbent 45th U.S. president, Donald Trump, and the Democrat frontrunner and presumptive candidate Joe Biden.
Last week, Biden came out with his plan to decriminalize cannabis on a federal level, which was somewhat of a departure from his previous statements that cannabis could be a “Gateway drug,” however for cannabis enthusiasts, it showed that Biden was moving in the right direction.
But what about Donald Trump? What does the landscape for cannabis legalization look like with the current president maintaining power for a further four years? Let’s find out.
Donald Trump’s Stance on Drugs
As a member of the Republican party, it can be expected that Donald Trump isn’t as keen on cannabis as someone from the Democrat side of the aisle, as one’s stance toward cannabis legalization can often fall along political lines. Though politics aside, Trump has another reason to be unsupportive of cannabis legalization.
In 1981, Trump’s brother Fred Trump died, largely due to alcoholism-related illness.
When talking about his brother, Trump has stated, “I had a brother, Fred. Great guy, best-looking guy, best personality — much better than mine, but he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me: ‘Don’t drink. Don’t drink’.”
As a result of his late brother’s advice, Donald Trump has famously avoided alcohol, tobacco, and all other drugs — while encouraging his children to do the same. Before dropping his children off at school, Trump said he would always stress “No drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes,” to prompt his children to stay on the straight and narrow.
While other presidents have had controversies surrounding their drug use, such as the debate surrounding Bill Clinton’s infamous claim that he never “inhaled marijuana,” or rumors that George Bush had used cocaine, Donald Trump’s drug record remains spotless. In fact, the President has even claimed that he’s never had a cup of coffee.
So how does Trump’s personal abstinence from drugs play into his policy decisions?
Will Donald Trump Legalize Cannabis?
Much like his opponent Joe Biden, President Trump’s stance on cannabis has vacillated over the years. In an online video segment with GQ, Trump stated that for “medicinal purposes, medical purposes, absolutely [medical marijuana] is fine.”
The U.S. President has also told the Washington Post, “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state. Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Finally, on the topic of medical marijuana, Trump told Bill O’Reilly, “I know people that have serious problems and [medical marijuana] — it really does help them,” Trump said.
In fact, in 2018, Trump went as far as to say he would end the federal ban on marijuana, allowing businesses to access federal funding more easily.
From these statements, one could deduce that President Trump wholeheartedly supports cannabis legalization and that he is fine with states choosing for themselves whether they would like recreational marijuana to be made legal or not. However, in recent months there have been a number of occasions when Donald Trump has chosen a different stance on cannabis.
In leaked audio from 2018 by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani, Trump was recorded asking whether he supported cannabis legalization, to which the President responded: “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” “Do you think the whole marijuana thing is a good thing?”
The 45th President then went on to say that “in Colorado, they have more accidents, it does cause an IQ problem. You lose IQ points.”
Then, in March this year, President Donald Trump appointed Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) as his Chief of Staff, who has been vocal about his opposition to marijuana legalization throughout his years in Congress. Previously, when the Senate Banking Committee effectively ruled out giving cannabis companies access to financial institutions, Mr. Meadows was among those who sent a letter thanking the Senate Chairman, stating:
“We remain opposed to liberalizing drug laws (including around banking), and we see these as some of our areas of greatest concern,” Meadows and his colleagues wrote. “We must protect our youth by preventing investment into companies that would prey upon them.”
What Does The Future Hold for Cannabis Legalization?
As far as the upcoming election goes, Joe Biden seems to have a slightly more favorable stance toward cannabis than Donald Trump, though neither looks like they will be groundbreaking for cannabis reform if they secure the 2020 Presidency.
Biden also has a tough road ahead of him, with campaigning largely impeded due to the coronavirus crisis, and as Donald Trump is the incumbent president, there’s a strong probability that trump will be reelected.
This would mean that 2020 will likely be business as usual for the cannabis industry, with legalization efforts occurring on a state-wide basis rather than a federal one. In this regard, there are three states which could potentially legalize cannabis for recreational use in November, which are South Dakota, New Jersey, and Mississipi.
While neither Trump nor Biden is an ideal cannabis advocate, neither is acting like a gatekeeper, which in itself is a positive thing.
This article originally appeared on The Green Fund — APAC region’s leading source of cannabis information.