Election Day was a singularly interesting event for American politics. Donald Trump is going to be the president of these United States. Sheldon Adelson can’t be feeling too good about things after donating millions of dollars to combat the possibility of legalizations in several states. I have no idea how to feel.
Cannabis had a strong showing at the polls. Legalization spread. California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine joined the ranks of the recreational states and medical initiatives passed in Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota, and voters in Montana chose to revive their medical program, which had been weakened by lawmakers. Only Arizona voters rejected outright the possibility of increased cannabis activity through their state’s ballot measure.
The federal status of marijuana has not seemed to matter much during the Obama administration – the president, after campaigning on the issue prior to his first term in office, mostly sat back and let the playing field develop; his Justice Department got as minimally involved and maintained as much plausible deniability as possible while the DEA and FDA under his jurisdiction followed that lead and stayed largely on the sidelines as medical cannabis programs continued to flourish in every region of the country except the South, and recreational programs began to spring up in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and whatever they call their system in Washington D.C.
If I’m being honest, I never really mentally committed to the possibility of a Trump victory, so that’s going to be a bit of an adjustment. Mr. President-Elect, being the inscrutable character that he is, doesn’t strike fear into my cannabis-loving heart, but I am substantially less certain about the characters that he has surrounded himself with, especially his choice for VP, Mike Pence and two drug warriors who have supported him during his campaign, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.
As a result of his guiding hand, Pence’s Indiana remains a place where possession of even small amounts of cannabis is still subject to criminal penalties of fines up to $1,000 and jail terms of up to 180 days. He refused to sign a 2013 bill reducing penalties for possession on the basis that Indiana “need[s] to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties.”
Christie’s New Jersey governorship has been marked by consistent pushback against the medical program there and a staunch opposition to any recreational program, and Giuliani, as mayor of New York City, oversaw 51,267 arrests in the year 2000 alone.
These are negative indicators but there is definite hope for limited governmental interference in cannabis programs due to the beliefs of many of the individuals likely to hold positions in the coming administration in the rights of states versus the imposition of regulations by federal authority. We also have the words of the president-elect on the issue, “Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen – right? Don’t we agree? “And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
So what next? Colorado leads the nation on this issue and has gained some powerful and geographically decentralized company. Continue to push for legalization by congressional mandate? Sure. It seems to be the only way to completely end prohibition.
Past that, educate yourself and place action above worry; this is our America, too, and we just won a huge victory at the polls. Spark one to that.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]