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Marijuana Wins Big on Election Day, But Faces Uncertain Future Under Trump [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #949)
Politics & Advocacy

Donald Trump wasn't the only big winner on Tuesday. Marijuana law reform also had a stellar night, with medical marijuana winning in all four states it was on the ballot and marijuana legalization winning four out of five.

Pot legalization won in California (Prop 64), Maine (Question 1), Massachusetts (Question 4), and Nevada (Question 2), losing only in Arizona (Prop 205), where a deep-pocketed opposition led by a hostile sitting governor managed to blunt the reform thrust. Medical marijuana won overwhelmingly in Florida (Amendment 2), the first state in the South to embrace full-blown medical marijuana, as well as in Arkansas (Question 6), Montana (I-182), and North Dakota (Measure 5).

This week's election doubles the number of legal marijuana states from four to eight and brings the number of full-fledged medical marijuana states to 28. It also means some 50 million people just got pot-legal, more than tripling the number of people living in states that have freed the weed.

 "This is one of the most significant days in the history of marijuana prohibition and this movement," said Rob Kampia, long-time head of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which was behind the legalization initiatives in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada and which also backed the California initiative. "When four states legalize it, it's a big deal, and California is an even bigger deal. The next time we'll see a day as important as yesterday is when a president signs a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition."

A major question is whether Donald Trump might be that president. During the campaign, he suggested that he would follow President Obama's lead and not interfere with state-level marijuana legalization and regulation (roughly the same position as Hillary Clinton). But his political alliances leave some reformers less than sanguine about a Trump administration.

"Marijuana reform won big across America on Election Day - indeed it's safe to say that no other reform was approved by so many citizens on so many ballots this year," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was involved in the California campaign. "But the prospect of Donald Trump as our next president concerns me deeply. His most likely appointees to senior law enforcement positions - Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie - are no friends of marijuana reform, nor is his vice president.

 "The momentum for ending marijuana prohibition took a great leap forward with the victories in California and elsewhere, but the federal government retains the power to hobble much of what we've accomplished," Nadelmann continued. "The progress we've made, and the values that underlie our struggle - freedom, compassion, reason and justice - will be very much at risk when Donald Trump enters the White House."

MPP's Kampia had a more optimistic take.

"The positions of Clinton and Trump were very similar," he said. "We have no reason to believe Trump would escalate the war on nonviolent marijuana users in states where it is legal. States will continue moving forward, and we will see a string of successes in the future, as well as being able to implement the laws passed yesterday."

That remains to be seen, as does the chance that a Republican Congress will move in a positive direction on marijuana. In a Wednesday tele-conference, marijuana reform stalwart Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), pointed to three areas where congressional action is needed: reforming the IRS's 280-E tax code provision that bars marijuana businesses from getting normal business tax breaks, reforming Treasury Department regulations that bar financial institutions from doing business with pot businesses, and removing barriers to research on marijuana's medical efficacy.

"I believe the next administration will follow the policy of the Obama administration," he said. "We had strong support for legalization in nine diverse states, with more support for these legalize, regulate, and tax policies than for either presidential candidate. The people have spoken, and that will make it easier for us in Congress to build bipartisan support for this legislation. There are now 28 states where there are state-legal businesses having to pay their taxes with shopping bags full of $20 bills. We have growing support in the House and Senate to stop this insanity," Blumenauer said.

"I believe we will see action within the next two years to stop this discrimination against state-legal marijuana businesses," he prophesied. "Now that the playing field has expanded dramatically, including that overwhelming vote in Florida, which will become the second largest state marijuana market in the country, there is even more incentive. Some representatives are ambivalent or even opposed to marijuana legalization, but will serve their constituents."

But, as DPA's Nadelmann noted, even if Congress is favorably disposed to move in a positive direction on marijuana, the Trump executive branch is likely to feature staunch foes of marijuana law reform. Will advisors and possible appointees such as Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Pence push Trump to try to undo the spreading marijuana legalization movement? And will Trump listen if they do? We will know the answer to these questions only in the fullness of time.

In the meantime, voters in initiative and referendum states and legislators in states without the initiative process can work to create more facts on the ground, more legalization states. National public opinion polls—and this week's elections—show that marijuana legalization is a winning issue. And the more states that legalize it, the more ridiculous, or as Obama put it this week, "untenable," federal marijuana prohibition becomes. Even a Trump victory, with all the frightening prospects that brings, may not be able to stop the marijuana juggernaut. 

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Mark Mitcham (not verified)

The cannabis legalization "genie" is "out of the bottle."

But in a hypothetical cage match between the cannabis "genie" and a potentially hostile Trump Attorney General (Chris Christie, say)... who wins?  I don't know, and I don't want to find out, either!

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 9:24pm Permalink

Now that 50+ million Americans are governed by a set of laws different from the archaic Federal Controlled Substances Act, it's time to take it to them.

We can't allow hostile entities to undo cannabis law reform.

We must take a page from the LGBT community's playbook. That means being unapologetic, unforgiving, and as unbendable as they are.

Realize that they have a distorted view of the 10th Amendement. Seventy-year-old dinosaur politicians and activist SCOTUS judges are nothing more than products of the failed Prohibition Era. We are right. They are not. Democrats never fought very hard for us. Republicans need to accept the will of the voters to help heal a nation.

WE MUST DICTATE THE FLOW OF THIS BATTLE. To hell with judges and politicians. The responsibility falls on WE, THE PEOPLE to protect our rights.

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 8:20am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by Rocky Coast (not verified)

Rocky Coast, I agree with you.  Both the Democrats and the Republicans have been openly screwing us for decades.

I've been thinking back over a lifetime of this bullshit, and one thing is constant: Civil Disobedience is required.  The problem is money: Capital.  Capital has been lying to me my whole life, and no amount of Reason will get through to Capital.  Attempt to use Discourse with Capital, and Capital will turn around and use it as a weapon against you, by feeding you more lies, jawing it to death, stalling you forever, and bullshitting you to death, right to your grave.  Meanwhile, they will be rigging the rules against you, behind your back or right to your face.  It's a fucking scam!

Now I'm glad I broke the rules when I smoked weed as a teenager.  At the time, I believed we had a functioning society.  They said, "In a civilized society, you don't break bad laws, you change them."  True -- but only if you live in a civilized society to begin with!  Now I no longer believe that.  Fuck marijuana prohibition.

Teenagers, the system is rigged and fucked.  Here's my advice to teenagers, for their own wellbeing, so sue me: 1) smoke pot; Pot is the safest thing you'll do all day; 2) do not use tobacco or nicotine products; they will kill you, slowly and with great agony, as you slowly suffocate to death from emphysema; 3) drink alcohol responsibly, or not at all (see point 1: smoke weed.)  Alcohol is a hard drug, and very dangerous.  Use with extreme caution!  Alcohol and Automobiles don't mix. 4)  Automobiles are dangerous all by themselves.  Learning to drive?  Ready to kill and die?  (George Carlin quoting a driver moments before he is crushed to a pulp on the interstate: "What?  Here, now, on the freeway?")

I disclose that I am an angry, old white man.  But I sure as hell am not a numb-nut Trump Deplorable.  We're going to lay it down to the Donald Trump and his drug warriors --- "law and order" Pence -- we're not going away, so fuck your drug laws.

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 9:16am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by Mark Mitcham (not verified)

I want to clarify, because I misspoke when I said that Civil Disobedience was the "ONLY" thing that got us to this point: ACTIVISTS work organizing reform efforts, and CITIZENS voting for reform is what got us here.  Full respects to those who did that hard work, and who are still at it!  And my eternal gratitude for the citizens who voted for reform.  No disrespect intended.

But none of that would have happened without Civil Disobedience.  It began when you were a teenager, and decided to fire one up!  We'd still be quietly waiting for permission to this day, were it not for Civil Disobedience.  When you smoke a bowl, you assume control over your own decisions, and indeed, ownership over your own life.

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 9:36am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by Mark Mitcham (not verified)

Since I'm giving advice to teenagers, I need to clarify one other thing: when I said that "smoking pot is the safest thing you'll do all day," that's not counting the lighter you use!  Fire is dangerous as hell, so don't get all high and start playing with the lighters, okay?  THAT is dangerous.  Don't burn down the goddamn house, okay?  Okay.  You'll be fine now.

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 12:26am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

Rocky Coast is right -- the marijuana movement must join the anti-Trump movement.  We absolutely cannot let that sick bastard buy our complacency, even if he cuts the MJ movement a break!

Legalization is not just another white privilege!  If we MJ legalizers don't oppose Trump on moral grounds, then we're guilty of becoming just another white privilege power structure.  I won't support that!  You wouldn't either, would you? 

NORML pissed off a lot of Trump supporters by openly advocating for Hillary, but I think they did the right thing.  It's a moral issue and we cannot duck it.

Sun, 11/13/2016 - 4:45am Permalink
Derek J (not verified)

In reply to by Mark Mitcham (not verified)

You're taking the wrong approach if you want to associate legalization with anti-Trump.  If you put that thought into his campaign, how do you think they might act on it?

If anything we should APPLAUD every tiny step or sentiment Trump makes towards legalization, including his positive stance on state's rights.

Hate Trump all you want but this approach is counter-productive.

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 7:45pm Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by Derek J (not verified)

To repeat, legalization is not just another white privilege.  It's about correcting a grave social injustice.

The marijuana legalization movement is, by it's very nature, pro-diversity and pro-tolerance.  In other words, legalization is for everybody, and benefits everybody.  The Muslims, for example -- you might say, well, they don't smoke it (officially), so why should they care?  Here's why: Because you don't have to smoke it to get arrested for it, or have your life needlessly ruined by law enforcement over it.  Marijuana prohibition is a tool for racism.  But Freedom is for everybody.

Trump and his KKK buddies are not.  Obviously.  That's why I won't "applaud" Trump.

And so we will lose everything we've gained if we hand it over to those who don't respect the very principles for which we fight so hard.

Fri, 11/18/2016 - 7:39am Permalink
William Aiken (not verified)

In reply to by Mark Mitcham (not verified)

Trump has criticized pot prohibition and acknowledged the economic benefits experienced in CO and WA. He choose Sessions for his stance on immigration. Trump never has stated any interest in enforcing federal pot laws. As far as Sessions is concerned, Trump's focus will be on holding cities accountable that proclaim themselves to be sanctuary cities. This issue was a constant and passionate theme in his campaign. Trump knows he has to deliver on this promise to his voters, who actually don't give a damn about enforcing federal pot laws.  The issue is not on his radar and if you've noticed,  the media isn't asking about it, either.  

So where's your evidence that Trump will turn into Harry Anslinger once he's sworn in? Every time Trump was asked about this conflict between state and federal law, he's come out with the right answers. If you really think Trump would permit  Sessions to run his own show when it comes to enforcement of the feds prohibition of pot, you've haven't been paying attention to what he's actually said about legalization. Your dire predictions have no basis in reality. You just can't accept the fact he will soon be our 45th.

Sat, 11/19/2016 - 12:11am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by William Aiken (not verified)

Sessions himself is my proof, he's exhibit A in an entire warehouse full of evidence.  I don't have the time to take you on a tour which you won't acknowledge anyway.  Still, If that's what you want, then those tours are available online, 24/7, feel free to read up on your own initiative.

You just don't seem to understand that racism and drug legalization are inherently incompatible.  There's no room in the legalization movement for silent complicity to racism -- whether that be against blacks, Muslims, gays, or Mexicans.  That's not even opening up the "nasty" conversation about his misogyny!  Good Lord.  Can't you see that barbarism is not good for our cause?

Look, legalization is occurring is a social context: it is the injustice of it all that drives the movement forward.  We already have the latent sympathy, if not the open support, of most fair-minded Americans, whether they smoke it or not.  This is why, regardless of what Trump and Sessions do, or don't do -- you and the rest of the Trump apologists have already done severe damage to our movement.  Is it possible that was your intention all along?  Or do you still seriously believe Trump has a shred of honesty or integrity about him?

As for my dire predictions, well, we'll see; I'd love to be wrong about all this.  Maybe Jeff Sessions will smoke some weed for experimental purposes, and become a flower-child!  Peace signs, pot, and inter-racial free love!  Let's hope he opens up the borders to all immigrants -- it's the American way, after all.  Land of the free, not land of the internment camp.

But I doubt it.  My friendly advice to you is: brace yourself!

Sat, 11/19/2016 - 7:32am Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by William Aiken (not verified)

William, I hope it turns out that you're right, but the signs are that we are in a very dangerous time for drug policy reform. Trump has said that states should get to decide their marijuana policies, but he's also said the opposite (like he's done with most issues).  His positive comments about drug legalization are from decades ago, at least the only ones I know of.  His drug policy during the campaign was mostly about how "the wall" will keep drugs and drug traffickers out -- which of course, it wouldn't, for reasons we all know well here.  Phil did a write up on this before the election, here.

Mark is right that Jeff Sessions is a serious threat to our issue.  He blocked bipartisan sentencing reform in Congress, one of just a few senators to oppose it.  And he's repeatedly spoken out against marijuana legalization.  I think there is a very significant possibility that he will shut down the industry.  If he doesn't, he likely will make things harder and reinstitute at least some raids.  I don't think any of this is a certainty, but it's not clear that Trump cares one way or another about it.  His own policy knowledge and experience is so slim, that he's likely to let his appointees decide most things, especially given his reportedly short attention span.  Personnel is policy, as they say, and Sessions is a true drug warrior.  It's also hard to see him supporting police reform, and we have to expect him to be almost totally insensitive to racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

On the bright side, with Sessions out of the Senate -- and Kelly Ayotte and Mark Kirk -- sentencing reform might just have a chance.

Sat, 11/19/2016 - 5:06pm Permalink
William Aiken (not verified)

The People TRump assembles around him will follow his mandate. I don't see anyone coming in dictating policy to him. While Trump's focus will be on immigration, the economy and ISSI, he has criticized the stupidity of the drug war and pot prohibition hasn't been part of his campaign bluster. 

Tue, 11/15/2016 - 9:14am Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by William Aiken (not verified)

I disagree.

A man is more than a primate; a man must have a moral center, a sense of social responsibility,  just to name a couple of the requirements for eligibility into the human family.  We don't fucking waterboard each other, we human beings, for example.

Secondly, it's not a question of whether the people Trump assembles around him will follow his mandate.  They ARE his mandate!  You're looking at it!  All the right-wing haters are lining up for jobs, like the line of criminals in Mel Brooks "Blazing Saddles."

Third, his "campaign bluster", as you call it, is irrelevant.  It's a mouthful of nothing.  He says all kinds of contradictory shit, it doesn't mean a thing.  The only thing there that's real is his hate, his bigotry, and his contempt for everyone else.

Fourth, even if he does cut the marijuana movement a break, the marijuana movement is not just another white power structure for him and his KKK buddies to buy off for our silence and our complicity.  Legalization is not just another white privilege!

But, regardless: Here's to your safety, and mine!

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 6:11am Permalink
John Thomas (not verified)

Excerpt from "Seven Common Myths About Legal Marijuana"
>>>"Evidence on the liberalization of marijuana laws suggests that this loosening may have increased marijuana consumption modestly, at least among adults. It also seems to have reduced traffic fatalities, suicide rates and crime rates."
Wed, 11/16/2016 - 6:26am Permalink

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