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Trump Threatens to Defy Congress to Go After Medical Marijuana

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #972)
Politics & Advocacy

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Congress moved to protect medical marijuana by including in its stopgap federal spending bill a provision barring the Justice Department from using federal funds to go after the drug in states where medical marijuana is legal, but now, President Trump says that doesn't matter.

The president wants to ignore the will of Congress when it comes to funding for medical marijuana enforcement. (Gage Skidmore)
Even though Trump signed the spending bill into law last Friday, he included a signing statement objecting to numerous provisions in the bill -- including the ban on funds to block the implementation of medical marijuana laws in those states.

Despite those state laws, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which also does not recognize "medical marijuana."

The president said he reserved the right to ignore that provision and left open the possibility the Trump administration could go after the 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico where medical marijuana use is allowed.

"Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories," Trump noted in the signing statement. "I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

The language suggests that Trump could give Attorney General Jeff Sessions his go ahead when it comes to enforcing marijuana policy. Sessions has vowed to crack down on marijuana and has scoffed at arguments for its medical use as "desperate."

"I reject the idea that we're going to be better placed if we have more marijuana," Sessions told law enforcement officials in an April speech. "It's not a healthy substance, particularly for young people."

But the language also sets up a potential power struggle with Congress, which, under the Constitution, has the sole power to appropriate funds for federal government operations.

As Steve Bell, a senior adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington told Bloomberg News, the signing statement signals a desire to usurp power from Congress.

"It is the constitutional prerogative of the Congress to spend money and to put limitations on spending," said Bell, a former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee and an aide to former Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico. "This is an extremely broad assertion of executive branch power over the purse."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a primary sponsor of the rider who is also a Trump supporter, threatened to take the matter to the Supreme Court if necessary to protect medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal thought they had some protection, thanks to the congressional budget action, but in typical Trumpian fashion, the president's signing statement has once again introduced doubt and uncertainty, leaving at risk not only patients and providers, but also traditional limits on executive authority.

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.


Greenbrierrick (not verified)

The President is a narcissist who will defy Congess and the voters within the states that have legalized marijuana. What is he trying to do? Protect us from ourselves.Yet his hypocracy keeps us in the OBAMA and BUSH wars and he has reversed himself on N.A.T.O. Perhaps these things are much more dangerous then M.J.? The good news is that if Trump pushes this hard enough, Congress and the Supreme Court may resolve to remove this tyrant from office and we all agree this is good.

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 7:07pm Permalink
kullninja (not verified)

wow i used like you guys but saying trump will go after medical cannabis is bougus. Trump is not stupid this would be a polical down fall for him.

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 2:10am Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by kullninja (not verified)

We have reported accurately on Trump's signing statement, kullninja. I hope he doesn't go after medical marijuana -- or legalized marijuana -- but the statement says that he might. It would make more sense for you to tell Trump that his signing statement is bogus.

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 11:00am Permalink

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