Trump administration puts recreational marijuana in crosshairs |

Trump administration puts recreational marijuana in crosshairs

Sean Spicer at White House press briefing: 'Big difference' between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana

Alicia Wallace, The Cannabist Staff

States where recreational marijuana is legal will be subject to “greater enforcement” under the Trump administration, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday.

But watchers of Colorado’s billion-dollar weed industry are waiting to see whether Spicer’s statements during his daily briefing actually yield a real shift in enforcement policy.

“There’s a big difference between (medical marijuana) and recreational marijuana, and I think when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said, giving the first glimpse of the new administration’s views of the growing legal cannabis industry. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, although voters in Colorado and seven other states and Washington, D.C., approved measures to legalize recreational pot sales and consumption. Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the District of Columbia.

When asked about increased enforcement around recreational pot, Spicer said: “That’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it.”

Mark Bolton, marijuana advisor to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, said it would be premature to speculate about the administration’s intentions.

“We have worked with the Department of Justice since legalization to develop a framework that respects voters and promotes public safety,” he said in an e-mail.

Brookings Institution drug policy expert John Hudak said the White House statement “is not a death knell for recreational marijuana, nor is it clarification.”

Hudak said a troubling aspect of the briefing was Spicer’s “clear lack of understanding of federal law.”

Spicer claims there’s a difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, Hudak said.

“I think it’s true in practice, it’s true in public opinion, but it’s not true in federal law,” Hudak said. “Medical marijuana is just as illegal as recreational marijuana.”

And yet, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment keeps the Department of Justice from spending money to enforce the Controlled Substances Act in medical marijuana states, he said.

“I think what is said from the podium and what happens in policy often have a disconnect,” Hudak said.

Read the rest of the story in The Cannabist.