America is in the throes of an opiate overdose epidemic with no end in sight. So President Donald Trump’s administration, which has yet to make a single misstep in domestic or foreign policy, is set to launch a federal crackdown on marijuana legalization, the White House suggested on Thursday.
During his daily briefing session with reporters, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the states enjoying tax revenue and job creation after legalizing cannabis will likely see “greater enforcement” of federal law banning marijuana in every shape and form.
Spicer also contradicted known science and medical research by tacitly pinning the blame for the country’s heroin problem on marijuana. Not pharmaceutical industry-driven overprescription of pain pills, or a faulty reliance on medication to solve pain—it’s marijuana that’s driving Americans to overdose on pain pills and then, when that supply or their health insurance runs out, turn to heroin, Spicer said.
Exactly what Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department has planned, when it will begin, and where was left unsaid. But this is the first indication that Sessions, an early Trump supporter who wields great influence in the White House and whose staunch opposition to marijuana legalization is well known, meant what he said when he warned he would “enforce federal law” on cannabis.
“I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” said Spicer, who added that the Justice Department will be “further looking into” marijuana enforcement.
But on the other hand, Donald Trump is OK with medical marijuana.
President Donald Trump “understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” he said, also noting previous action by Congress not to fund the Justice Department “go[ing] after those folks.”
As for “recreational marijuana, that’s a very, very different subject,” Spicer said.
Sean Spicer says Trump administration sees a big difference between medical marijuana (cool) and recreational marijuana (not cool) pic.twitter.com/NYuF5F8o7Z
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 23, 2017
If the Trump administration is serious and this isn’t a redux of vague and impossible promises to build a mythical and useless wall, this would be exactly the opposite of what most Americans want.
A federal crackdown on legal cannabis is opposed by 71 percent of Americans, according to a Quinnipiac University poll figure. That figure would include about 40 percent of the minority of citizens who voted for Donald Trump.
Trump’s latest approval ratings stand at a dismal 41 percent, with a majority of Americans finding the president “embarrassing.”
“If the administration is looking for ways to become less popular, cracking down on voter-approved marijuana laws would be a great way to do it,” said Tom Angell, chair of the Marijuana Majority, a national advocacy organization. “On the campaign trail, President Trump clearly and repeatedly pledged that he would leave decisions on cannabis policy to the states. With a clear and growing majority of the country now supporting legalization, reneging on his promises would be a political disaster and huge distraction from the rest of the president’s agenda.”
Spicer suggested that Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon and President Trump opposes recreational marijuana use because, somehow, cannabis is to blame for the opiate epidemic, which began after prescriptions for opiate-based pain medications quadrupled.
“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.
Forget for a second that there is no credible link between marijuana use and a turn to heroin—and that recent research suggests the exact opposite. Bask instead in the irony that Donald Trump can thank the epidemic for his election.
Heroin’s emergence as a killer in downtrodden suburban and rural communities in America’s Farm and Rust Belts coincided with his rise to power. In fact, as NPR reported in December, the areas hit hardest by the heroin and prescription opiate epidemic were areas where Trump most outperformed Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate for president.
Some 240 million opiate prescriptions were written in 2014 alone, according to the federal government, enough for every American to have their own supply of habit-forming pain pills. Far fewer Americans are given license to use weed. As many as two million Americans abuse prescription opiates, according to the Centers for Disease Control—not weed. And every day, the CDC reports, more than 1,000 people are admitted to emergency rooms for misusing prescription pills, a figure that does not include ER admissions for heroin overdoses.
In a year’s time in Colorado right after legalization, when dummies like New York Times columnists were gobbling whole medicated candy bars despite being told directly not to, several hundred people went to a hospital for using too much weed.
Nearly $7 billion in legal cannabis was sold in America last year. A crackdown on legal marijuana would hand that industry over to the black-market and could send Colorado into a recession.
“Trump seems insistent on throwing the marijuana market back into the hands of criminals, wiping out tax-paying jobs and eliminating billions of dollars in taxes,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the outgoing director of the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the drug-reform advocacy groups instrumental in the successful passage of state marijuana legalization initiatives.
“As for connecting marijuana to the legal opioid crisis, Spicer has it exactly backwards,” he added. “Greater access to marijuana has actually led to declines in opioid use, overdoses and other problems.”