The election of Donald Trump has raised concerns on a seemingly endless number of fronts. Note that the day after he defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, immigrant children were in tears at schools across Denver out of fear that their undocumented parents would be deported before the final bell of the day.
Also anxious are members of the marijuana industry, who worry that Trump's personal antipathy toward cannabis could inspire him to try to shut down recreational marijuana businesses in Colorado and other states where they're legal — a roster that grew substantially on election day.
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With that in mind, Marijuana Majority chairman and founder Tom Angell has launched a petition titled "President-Elect Trump: Respect State Marijuana Laws."
The complete text from the petition is below, but an excerpt reads, "A clear majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and we're counting on you to respect the people's will and make good on your word."
Why is such an effort necessary? Negative comments Trump made during the campaign in regard to Colorado's recreational pot laws offer an explanation.
In August 2015, for instance, Trump engaged in the following exchange with Fox News's Sean Hannity:
Hannity: "Colorado, marijuana. Good or bad experiment?"
Trump: "I say it's bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it's bad. And I feel strongly about that."
Then, this past March, he said the following in a conversation with MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "I think that as far as drug legalization, we talk about marijuana, and in terms of medical, I think I am basically for that. I've heard some wonderful things in terms of medical. I'm watching Colorado very carefully to see what's happening out there. I'm getting some very negative reports, I'm getting some okay reports. But I'm getting some very negative reports coming out of Colorado as to what's happening, so we'll see what happens."
Despite his misgivings, however, Trump has suggested that he won't interfere with the rights of Colorado or other places that have legalized recreational marijuana. In three videos below, he can be heard making the following statements:
“And then I really believe you should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation…. In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”
“I think it’s up to the states. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
“If they vote for it, they vote for it."
The petition exhorts Trump to stand by these positions, as well as to avoid appointing an attorney general with anti-marijuana views — a definite concern given that the names floated as possibilities for this cabinet post include New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who announced that he would crack down on Colorado's marijuana laws during his own failed presidential bid, and former New York mayor and notable pot hater Rudy Giuliani.
Convincing the incoming Trump administration not to declare war on cannabis is especially important from Angell's perspective given the success of marijuana measures at the ballot box in assorted states earlier this week. While a recreational proposal failed in Arizona, similar items passed in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, and medical marijuana won approval in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.
Angell is effusive about the overall impact of these electoral achievements.
"It was the most important day in the history of the marijuana legalization movement," he says. "We won almost everywhere. Going into this election, a lot of people were asking me to make predictions, and one thing I kept saying is that I felt very comfortable about California and Florida, but everything else felt like a toss-up to me. But not only did we win California and Florida, but we won a whole bunch of other races I wasn't expecting to win — which really shows that anywhere can be next."
He notes that "I was frankly shocked by the results in North Dakota. The state wasn't on the list that organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project were targeting this year; that was done by local grassroots activists."
As for the shortfall in Arizona, Angell admits that he "questioned why they went for it this year when medical marijuana passed so narrowly in 2010. It might have been a problem of trying to do too much too soon. There are only so many resources in this movement, so many donors and dollars you can put into a campaign, and we had eight other campaigns this year. Maybe we didn't need a ninth one."
Not that he's willing to write off a future effort in Arizona. "Look at Nevada," he says. "They rejected marijuana legalization in the early 2000s, but this year, they passed it. And California rejected marijuana legalization six years ago. So maybe it's a matter of vetting the medical marijuana program in Arizona — letting it mature a little more, letting voters get more familiar with it."
Regarding Trump, Angell believes that "it's important to view things through two lenses. First, what are the president-elect's personal positions on the issue? But also, does he respect the ability of states to enact policies he might disagree with? And thankfully, the answer to that second question seems to be yes."
At the same time, however, "Donald Trump has shown himself to evolve his positions on issues over the years, to put it delicately," Angell continues. "So there is some concern that depending on who he surrounds himself with — mainly in his cabinet — he could change his mind on respecting state laws."
The prospect of Attorney General Chris Christie is especially troubling for Angell. "Rudy Giuliani definitely wasn't good on marijuana when he was the mayor of New York, but he hasn't spent the last two years traveling the country and talking about how he wants to arrest not only state-legal marijuana business owners, but also people who use marijuana in accordance to state law."
Hence, the petition, which Angell hopes will make Trump think twice about the price he could be made to pay if he goes medieval on marijuana.
"The challenge for the new administration is to try to bring the country together in order to build a coalition and get done whatever they want to get done," Angell points out. "And attacking broadly popular marijuana-law reforms will create huge distractions and political problems that the new administration doesn't really need."
After all, he stresses, "in many places, marijuana got far more votes than the president-elect did. I think that says a lot about where we are with this issue and how the new administration should approach it for their own good."
Here are the aforementioned videos featuring Trump talking about marijuana laws, followed by the petition text.
During your presidential campaign you repeatedly pledged that if elected you would ensure the federal government respect the right of states to enact their own marijuana policies, including those allowing medical cannabis and recreational use.
As marijuana law reform supporters, we are petitioning to encourage you to uphold these promises, including by filling your Cabinet with officials who will follow through on what you said on the campaign trail. This especially includes appointing Justice Department and DEA leaders who will respect state laws.
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Please also include statutory changes to marijuana laws in your legislative agenda for the 115th Congress. A growing number of lawmakers in both the House and Senate have shown willingness to scale back prohibition and, with your leadership, it is likely that far-reaching reforms can be enacted.
A clear majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and we're counting on you to respect the people's will and make good on your word.