On May 5, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the 2017 omnibus funding bill, covering the federal government’s funding through Sept. 30. The bill contains a provision that bans the Department of Justice from using funds to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized medical marijuana; however, advocates didn’t have long to celebrate the victory because Trump issued a signing statement that has clouded the future of medical marijuana.
“Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” Trump said in a press release.
While Trump’s signing statement makes it seem as if his “constitutional responsibility” gives him the right to overrule the medical marijuana protection provision, his statement creates more ambiguity than clarity regarding the future of medical marijuana.
“The signing statement does not say the Administration plans to ignore state laws nor does it say that medical cannabis programs are unconstitutional. What this statement does do is fuel a tremendous amount of uncertainty around the future of existing medical cannabis programs,” said David Mangone, legislative analyst at Americans for Safe Access. “To end this constant uncertainty, we must pass permanent federal laws like the CARERS Act, Ending the Federal Prohibition on Marijuana Act of 2017 (H.R. 1227), and others to ensure the rights of medical cannabis patients are protected.”
Mangone is not alone in his characterization of Trump’s signing statement.
“Donald Trump continues to send mixed messages on marijuana,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, to Reason. “After stating during the campaign that he was ‘100 percent’ in support of medical marijuana, he now issues a signing statement casting doubt on whether his administration will adhere to a congressional rider that stops DOJ from going after medical marijuana programs. The uncertainty is deeply disconcerting for patients and providers, and we urge the administration to clarify their intentions immediately.”
A previous statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that Trump understood the difference between medical and recreational marijuana, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions later said that marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin so it’s unclear as to which way the Trump Administration will go.
If any enforcement actions come as a result of Trump’s signing statement, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif, is ready for the challenge.
“Marijuana laws in this country have violated every basic principle this country stands for over the last 75 years. It’s time to stop,” Rohrabacher said during an event at UC Irvine on May 5, as reported by The Cannifornian. “If we have to take it all the way to the Supreme Court, we will win on this.”