An important question looms large as the 2016 Presidential election approaches. Though we know that our country’s new attorney general is anti-marijuana (which hasn’t much mattered), what if one of the marijuana-prohibitionist Presidential candidates lands in the Oval Office? Will the entire democratic experiment with state legal marijuana be completely snuffed out by a Chris Christie, a Ben Carson, or a Marco Rubio?
We all know that the most recent Cole Memo does not represent a change in federal drug laws and, worse, that it does virtually nothing to stop the DOJ from going on the offensive with arrests and prosecutions in states with legal cannabis operations. Nonetheless, as much as the executive office is tasked with the enforcement of all federal laws and as persuasive as the President can be regarding Department of Justice priorities (just look at Nixon and Reagan), we are not so sure that the next President’s opinion on marijuana will matter all that much.
And here’s why:
- We live in a democracy in which the will of the people is supposed to matter. And since the majority of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, we doubt even Mr. Christie, Mr. Carson, or Mr. Rubio (despite their over the top prohibitionist campaign rhetoric) would have the guts or political wherewithal to crush a state’s right to have its own cannabis laws.
- Marijuana is becoming an increasingly serious topic with Presidential candidates. Waning are the days where puns and bad marijuana jokes dominate political conversations about legalization. The media is finally getting away from its obsession with whether or not a candidate has “used” marijuana and thankfully moved on to inquiring into how, exactly, a candidate would handle legalization.
- State legalization has created lucrative jobs, financial investment, and state tax revenues. This means that Presidential candidates must be careful when discussing state-legalization because real people with real livelihoods will be impacted by any legalization roll-back.
- I highly doubt that any President, at this point, is really willing to single-handedly lead a charge against a bunch of states and their state’s rights, much less against the citizen’s of those states.
- Just like the Cole memo and other DOJ enforcement memos before it stipulate, the federal government has neither the resources nor the manpower to pursue every state legal cannabis business that operates in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Even if the anti-cannabis candidates wanted to shut down state legal marijuana, it wouldn’t happen overnight and, very likely, only certain entities would be profiled for arrest and prosecution (probably those out of compliance with state laws or the biggest operators). Plus, with the economy still relatively in the tank and with other way bigger fish to fry (like taking out ISIS and slowing the effects of global warming), marijuana is not going to be high on any President’s to-do list.
But if you are still worried and you want to know more about where the various Presidential candidates stand on state-legal marijuana, be sure to read the following posts: