White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comment last week that we “will see greater enforcement” of federal marijuana prohibition has set off tremors in the pot industry, but it should be setting off warning bells at the White House itself.
Any move against marijuana would be politically fraught, economically foolish, and counter to some of the Trump administration’s other expressed goals, such as fighting Mexican drug cartels and creating American jobs right here in America.
Here are five reasons the Trump administration needs to think twice before it meddles with legal marijuana:
1. Legal marijuana is way more popular than Trump is. A Quinnipiac poll released last week is only the latest of a long series of polls in recent years showing majority support for marijuana legalization. That poll had nearly three out of five Americans—59%—down with freeing the weed. And more directly to the political point, an even higher number—71%—want the federal government to butt out in states where it is legal. Trump, meanwhile, is polling in the thirties or forties in personal popularity polls. And we know he wants to be liked.
2. Trump can’t make legal marijuana go away; he can only mess it up. Even if Jeff Sessions lives up to marijuana industry nightmare scenarios by successfully shutting down pot businesses and preventing states from taxing and regulating it, marijuana possession and cultivation for personal use will remain legal under state law. The federal government cannot force state and local police to enforce federal marijuana prohibition and it does not have the resources to effectively do so itself. People will continue to grow and possess pot in legal states, and continue to sell it—only now all that activity will return to the black market.