These Are The Biggest Challenges To Federal Marijuana Law In 2018
There were some colossal changes that took place in pot policy across the USA in 2017 and the forecast for 2018 is, well, busy. At a glance, one of the biggest economies in the world finally jumped on the recreational marijuana bandwagon. California’s marijuana industry is expected to be worth billions by the end of this year. However, it is impossible to neglect the federal marijuana law shaped bump in the road cannabis faces this year. The Trump administration has waged war on sweet Mary Jane but far be it from MJ to step down from a challenge. How will the cannabis industry fare in the face of such adversity? Here is the forecast for the coming year.
Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, and the current federal stance
Donald Trump’s administration has made it clear that they have no intention of federally supporting legal marijuana, but up until now, that didn’t matter so much. Thanks to Obama, the federal government was basically disallowed from intervening in state laws when it came to cannabis. However, the past week has demonstrated that things are changing. Drastically.
Jeff Sessions is the self-proclaimed wall (the Trump administration loves walls, doesn’t it?) between marijuana and legality. Last week, the Attorney General announced he is rescinding the Obama-era policy that let legal weed flourish. His move all but invites federal prosecutors to bring in marijuana cases, even in states in which weed is legal. His misguided mission to “disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis and thwart violent crime across our country” has made it perfectly clear that marijuana is going to be facing some challenges this year.
Why is marijuana illegal under federal law?
The disparity between federal marijuana law and state law makes things really complicated for residents of the US. Things can get downright confusing when federal law says one thing and state law says another. So why is marijuana illegal under federal law? There is one real reason for this. The federal government still puts marijuana in the same category as cocaine and heroin - meaning that under federal policy, marijuana is considered to have no medicinal value whatsoever.
It is the divergence between federal and state law that makes the whole marijuana movement shaky territory for activists and lawmakers. Having said that, federal drug laws have not stood in the way of activists and lawmakers fighting for change, and it’s obvious that they won’t moving forward.
What challenges the federal government?
The federal government is not going to be able to take states down without a fight. States have a lot to gain by way of protecting their marijuana business. California’s economy is bigger than most countries in the world, and the expected tax revenue from marijuana is enormous. State politicians are not going to step down from their potential billions that easily. Nor are the business owners who have invested so much into making the marijuana dream a reality. Vermont and New Hampshire have already made moves to legalize cannabis in response to Jeff Sessions’ announcement and in an assertion of their state's rights.
Opposition within the Republican party doesn’t help their endeavor either. A party needs to be united to pull off enforcement, and unity is not something the Republican party is able to boast at this current moment in time. Republican Senator Cory Gardner (Colorado) was one of the first and most vocal to respond to Sessions’ actions last week. He said, “I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.” It’s obvious to many politicians that federal drug laws have become outdated and that it might be time for some much-needed reform.
Where does everybody stand now?
Technically, nothing has changed with respect to federal marijuana law. What has changed is the level of enforcement that the government is now able to use in legal states. States are still allowed to make their own cannabis laws, but local businesses are now in danger of being shut down and prosecuted.
Ultimately, it is up to the states themselves as to what kind of resources they would like to commit to enforcing federal marijuana law. It is also clear that state lawmakers and politicians are more than willing to fight against federal intervention within their jurisdiction. States have a vested interest in the success of cannabis, if only purely for how much tax revenue it brings in. Activists will be just as involved in fighting intervention in legal states as they were about having it legalized in the first place.
This year looks like it could be a rocky one, with a lot of opposing opinions. But if the cannabis industry has proved anything, it’s that it doesn’t mind putting up a fight every now and then, and even if through sheer perseverance and patience alone, the industry keeps on booming.