The Trump administration’s hint of “greater enforcement” against marijuana legalization is a loser of a policy idea.
TRUMP spokesman Sean Spicer hinted last week at “greater enforcement” against legalized recreational marijuana, which sent a shiver through Washington and the six other states, and District of Columbia, with legal pot.
But there are good reasons to chill out, and see what Trump actually does.
Trump has appointed drug warriors to his cabinet, but is not one himself. At a campaign event in Colorado, Trump said, “I think in terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”
Trump likes polls, and polls unequivocally show that — in Trump-speak — prohibition is a loser. Support for legalization has doubled since 2000, to a 60 percent approval margin in the October 2016 Gallup poll.
More importantly, a Quinnipiac University poll released last week found 71 percent of voters — in every age and demographic — are opposed to federal enforcement on marijuana in the 26 states with medical marijuana laws and seven with full legalization.
The federal government can’t force states to enforce its drug laws, so to break apart the highly regulated and widely expanding state-level marijuana markets, the Department of Justice would have to do the legwork itself. It is tough to imagine the resources that a crackdown would require.
The basic argument for legalizing marijuana is as strong now as it was in 2012 when Washington and Colorado led the way. Prohibition cultivates the black market and perpetuates racial injustice.
In a letter to the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Gov. Jay Inslee and state AG Bob Ferguson said a return to prohibition won’t stop consumption or trafficking. “It is far more likely that commerce in marijuana will simply move back underground, returning bumper profits to criminal groups while once again depleting government resources.”
Legalization done right — as Washington has — limits youth access; regulates seed-to-sale production; and taxes, rather than criminalizes, adult recreational use. Washington projects $730 million in cannabis tax revenue for the next two-year budget, and spends it on prevention, treatment, health care and schools.
If Trump is serious about “greater enforcement” on drugs, he could start at his favorite rhetorical punching bag: the southern border. Mexican gangs are the primary suppliers of the heroin that has ravaged communities that voted for Trump. But marijuana imports from those traffickers have fallen as legalization has taken hold, according to the DEA’s 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment.
The American people have moved beyond prohibition because it was a destructive, ineffective policy. Trump should read the will of the people and let the states continue to be the laboratories of democracy.