Pot Matters: Trump on Marijuana


DonaldTrump-MarijuanaLegalization

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is hedging his position on marijuana legalization, but is “a hundred percent” in favor of medical marijuana. Nonetheless, Trump’s stated position on legalization is evolving, because he has acknowledged that “in some ways” legalization “is good.”

Trump, speaking to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News this week, was asked about his position on marijuana legalization in Colorado. After expressing some concern over the health effects of marijuana, he was pressed by O’Reilly about what he would do to stop it. Trump then confessed that “I would, I would really want to think about that one Bill because in some ways, I think it’s good and in other ways, it’s bad.”

But then Trump hastened to point out his unequivocal support for medical marijuana, explaining that “I know people that have serious problems… and… it really, really does help them.”

Trump’s cautious approach to legalization is based on uncertainty, as he sees it, about the impact of legal marijuana use on people’s health. 

He ignored O’Reilly’s opening claim about “dealers, all the pushers… going to Colorado loading up… on pot… and then zooming around the country selling it.” When asked if that concerned him, Trump responded that “it’s a real problem.” But then Trump changed the subject, explaining that “there’s another problem… the book isn’t written on it yet, but there’s a lot of difficulty in terms of illness and what’s going on with the brain and the mind, and what it’s doing… it’s coming out, probably, over the next year or so.”

Asked then if he would stop it, Trump paused, hesitant to commit himself as a presidential candidate to push back against Colorado’s program. 

“I do want to see what the medical effects are,” he said.  

After repeating this twice, Trump then volunteered his complete support for medical marijuana, continuing with his pro medical marijuana comments—in spite of O’Reilly’s claim that “medical marijuana is a ruse.” Faced with Trump’s support for medical marijuana and his personal familiarity with medical cannabis patients, O’Reilly conceded that “I know, and they’re taken care of.”

Aside from his support for medical marijuana, the most interesting comment that Trump made about his position was that “in some ways, I think [legalization] s good.” 

It will be interesting, over the course of the campaign, to hear Trump elaborate on this comment. In this interview, he laid out why “in other ways it’s bad,” but apparently it’s not bad enough to justify a definitive statement opposing legalization. Why not?

Trump has a commanding lead over his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination. Judging from this interview, he does not believe it will hurt him politically to support medical marijuana or to consider the benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana. 

On the other hand, the greatest opposition to marijuana legalization is among Republican voters, and his recognition of some concern over the issue, given his campaign to win the Republican nomination, is politically astute.

Trump was originally for legalization in 1990 as the only way to win the War on Drugs but has expressed his reservations about legalization during this campaign. 

His rivals in the nomination contest have all expressed reluctance to interfere with state-level legalization policies because they believe states have the right to set their own policies. Trump’s comment to O’Reilly that legalization is good in some ways moves beyond tolerating legalization as a state’s right by recognizing the potential public policy benefits of Colorado’s approach.

(Photo Courtesy of The Wrap)