On Feb. 16, a small crowd gathered in front of the Capitol to announce marijuana’s arrival on Capitol Hill as a special interest. The “Cannabis Caucus,” a cadre of cannabis-friendly lawmakers from legal states Alaska, Oregon, California and Colorado, would push for pro-pot policy in Washington. They might have wanted to work on banking, taxation or something boring, but now they have the challenge of convincing Donald Trump that the federal crackdown on recreational marijuana hinted at on Thursday is a bad idea.
Fears of a Donald Trump-led war on weed have never been greater.
Every signal from the White House is a bad one. The Justice Department is run by a Deep South good ole boy with values lifted from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who likes long prison terms and once joked about the Ku Klux Klan at marijuana’s expense. Trump’s chief advisor is the intellectual muse of the alt-right, and his health secretary was one of the Cannabis Caucus’s most reliable foes in Congress.
Finally, on Feb. 23, press secretary Sean Spicer offered, without elaboration, that the Trump administration would probably apply “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana law.
Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican is one of the two conservatives on the Cannabis Caucus. The caucus responded to Spicer’s vague hints with predictable alarm and Young vowing to “educate” the president on the issue. This may be beyond his scope, as education generally involves facts—and Young’s fellow weed-friendly Republican, Southern California’s Dana Rohrabacher, was an early supporter of Ted Cruz, whom grudge-holding Trump appears to still consider a target.
The best hope to convince Trump to call off the dogs may be to appeal to the president’s appreciation for specie—and there’s a lot of money in weed, which may have singlehandedly revived Colorado’s economy.
That was the argument presented by Roger Stone, Jr., a former Trump advisor, in a post on Twitter, the president’s preferred news source (along with cable news and conspiracy theory-slinging web sites).
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) February 24, 2017
But will Trump listen? Will he heed Stone before taking counsel from Steve Bannon—or, for that matter, Jeff Sessions, the early Trump backer with the keys to the DEA?
Sessions’ cronies are credited with making America, the president and much of the Cabinet in particular, greatly closer to Russia. Sessions thoroughly and famously hates marijuana, and Sessions appears to be leading the president on readopting old drug war familiars like asset forfeiture and all-out wars on drugs as policy.
Stone has feuded often with Trump, who called the consultant “a stone cold loser” in 2008. Stone left the Trump campaign in August, months before the poll-defying victory in November. Whether he resigned or was fired depends on who you ask, but Stone says he was sick of Trump’s sycophantic crew of enabling “yes men”—the team of winners now writing executive orders in the White House, which includes Sessions. Stone might as well try to use Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer to send messages to CPAC.
There are a few bodies in Trump’s orbit who are marijuana-friendly, chief of whom is billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel.
The president’s biggest fan in Silicon Valley, Thiel contributed $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign. He also donated a couple hundred thousand dollars to California’s marijuana legalization bid last year. Thiel appears to have the president’s ear, somewhat: he is reportedly advising Trump on who to choose for head of the Federal Trade Commission as well as a leader for the Department of Justice’s antitrust efforts.
But Peter Thiel doesn’t seem likely to be a marijuana-saving signal boost for Stone and the tiny cadre of marijuana lawmakers. Thiel has yet to publicly challenge the president. He stayed silent as Silicon Valley howled when Steve Bannon rolled out Trump’s since-abandoned executive order on immigration, and with his security company, Palantir, seeking more contracts to participate in government spy programs, it’s questionable if Thiel will want to spend political capital on saving weed—or bother to change Sessions’ mind, which has long been made up.