How Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Should Handle Pot If Elected President

Donald Trump hasn't sung the praises of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado. Additional images and more below.
Donald Trump hasn't sung the praises of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado. Additional images and more below.
File photo

Donald Trump has consistently criticized Colorado's legalization of limited recreational marijuana sales.

And Hillary Clinton's cannabis policies are seen as less progressive than those of rival Bernie Sanders.

Yet most observers believe that in November, either Trump or Clinton will be elected President of the United States.

And despite their widely varied approaches to the issue, an expert in the field says they could both forge consistent marijuana policies by following the same seven steps.

That's the takeaway from "A Memo to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Marijuana Policy," written by John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies for the Brookings Institute, as well as deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management.

We've featured Hudak's work several times in this space.

John Hudak.
John Hudak.

In August 2014, he wrote a report maintaining that Colorado's rollout of Amendment 64 was succeeding. And the next year, he argued that the feds' war on medical marijuana research must end and offered eight things to watch for regarding marijuana politics in 2015.

Among his predictions on the latter score: "Marijuana policy will definitely be part of the 2016 conversation in a way that it has not in previous presidential campaigns. And the issue will be particularly interesting to watch as it does not fall neatly along party lines."

This last observation was particularly on point during the period when the Republican presidential field included Kentucky senator Rand Paul, an outspoken champion of drug-policy reform, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who promised that if he became president, he'd crack down on Colorado's recreational pot laws.

Christie's candidacy subsequently cratered, but he was one of the first major figures to endorse Trump, who announced last August that he'd heard about big problems with marijuana in Colorado — a stance he reiterated this past March, when he made reference to "some very negative reports coming out of Colorado."

Hillary Clinton during a 2014 appearance in Denver.
Hillary Clinton during a 2014 appearance in Denver.
Photo by Jake Shane

As for Clinton, the following Motley Fool blurb neatly summarizes her pot position:

Clinton, the other Democratic Party front-runner, has a far less progressive view from her main rival Bernie Sanders, although it's worth noting that Clinton's stance on marijuana has evolved in line with the opinion of the general public. When it comes to medical marijuana Clinton is completely in favor of ongoing research into the potential benefits of the drug, but would likely restrict access (until all the safety data is in) to extreme cases of need/compassionate use. By a similar token, Clinton has taken a wait-and-see approach to recreational marijuana. She doesn't appear to have an issue with states legalizing and regulating the drug on their own, but she's been clear that nothing would change federally until a complete safety profile of marijuana has been established. 

Despite the presidential frontrunners' differing views about marijuana, however, Hudak believes the same series of steps will benefit both of them. They are:

1. When vetting possible appointees, ask them about cannabis

2. Talk to Congress about marijuana

3. Talk to states that passed marijuana reform

4. Talk to cannabis businesses, patients, consumers, and activists

5. Talk to marijuana reform opponents

6. Talk to scientists studying (or trying to study) cannabis

7. Think about your marijuana legacy

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Step three — "talk to states that passed marijuana reform" — would obviously involve Colorado. But rather than mentioning the state by name, he uses generic references to policy makers here and in the places that have followed Colorado's lead.

The blurb reads:

Governors, state regulators, state legislators, mayors, and other officials face serious marijuana policy challenges every day. Yes, some of those challenges exist because of state-specific issues, policy flaws, or enforcement problems. Though, many — if not most — of the problems facing states exist not because of the state’s own mishaps but because federal policy is so broken. Engaging with partners in state government will offer your administration a comprehensive and detailed understanding of both the extent of those problems and how federal policies can provide solutions. The creation of a federal-state marijuana policy working group would be an effective first step in putting those policy needs into focus and opening communication among all levels of government.

No telling if Hudak is on the wavelengths of either Trump or Clinton. But if he's not, he should be.

To read the complete memo, click here.


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