Weed under Trump: is he to be feared or is he just blowing smoke?

Back in February, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that those in states with legalized marijuana could expect “greater enforcement” under the Trump administration. Spicer’s comments, along with the critical comments regarding legalized marijuana of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sparked a sense of fear in the young but profitable legal marijuana industry, and for good reason.

Where it all starts: a macro shot of a marijuana bud

Where it all starts: a macro shot of a marijuana bud

The budding industry is quickly capitalizing on an eager customer base, and is projected to surpass $24 billion nationwide by 2024 if the federal government does not crackdown on the status quo of legalization.

The future of legal weed in the Trump era is ambiguous. For both users and those involved in the industry, there are far more questions than answers regarding how Trump and his administration will enforce or not enforce federal laws.

The Users

Of course, the industry and economy that has been created by legal weed would not be here without the customers. For the customers, of which many have come from far and wide to Colorado, the legal weed industry is not only an incentive for living in the Mile High City, but a part of their lives. For Scott White, a student at the University of Denver, legal marijuana is a regular part of his day, and something he believes is beneficial for the state at large.

“Its raised a lot of money,” says the second-year engineering student “I don’t know how much exactly, but I know it goes to schools and funds like that”. For White, like many users, the idea of marijuana being illegal in the state is not only frightening, but laughable. “[marijuana] is so much safer than alcohol, and to prohibit it is useless,” he explains, stating that if it were to be illegal tomorrow, he would still smoke. “There’s really no point in not legalizing it, you’re [states] are just losing money.”

In terms of what he thinks will happen to legal marijuana in the Trump era, White shrugs at the thought, “I don’t think Trump particularly cares,” he laughs, “He’s got other issues on his plate”. However, White does fear that the administration will stifle the ability for other states to legalize marijuana, especially recreational. White comes from Idaho, where legalized weed has made little progress, under the Trump administration he sees even slimmer chances for it to pass. In the end though, White explains that “If it’s the will of the people, I think it will come to most places at some point.”

Scott White exhales marijuana smoke in Denver Colorado. He believes Trump won't do anything to legal weed.

Scott White exhales marijuana smoke in Denver, Colorado. He believes Trump won’t do anything to legal weed.

The Industry

The ones who are watching Trump’s administration the closest, and the people who have maybe the most to lose (for some, entire livelihoods), are those that work within the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in Colorado. For these people, an attack on legal weed is an attack on their careers and sustainability. John Montgomery has been in the industry for three years now, performing a myriad of tasks across administration, IT and HVAC. He currently works for two grows and four retail stores in the Denver area.

Montgomery says he thinks Trump will stay quiet on legal weed, not endorsing it, but not wholeheartedly enforcing federal laws. “Not only is he state rights, but he’s a businessman,” he continues, “It doesn’t make sense, he’ll continue to be quiet about it so as not to bother the republicans, but I don’t think he would allow enforcement.”

Montgomery says that while he may not be so fatalistic, there is some fear in the industry, “From the owners and upper management, nobody believes Sessions can do anything, but the lower level staff think the opposite and that you’re [the upper management] are just blind and comfortable.” Montgomery explains that even with the fear in the industry, there is little chance of further enforcement.

If Trump was to announce increased federal enforcement today however, Montgomery says that the industry would continue what they are doing and plan to step back and focus on heavy medical production and sale, but he also explains that the entire state government would fight against it and that local cops would refuse to enforce it. “I don’t think ANYONE thinks medical would go away if recreational did.” Montgomery makes sure to point out that even if Trump did go after legal rec marijuana, the industry would be able to go fully medical, even though it would maybe have an impact economically on the industry.

For the future according to Montgomery, “no-one is doing anything really, other than thinking about what they’d need to do if we went fully medical and what that would mean for the business.” It seems that the industry itself feels relatively safe under the Trump banner.

The Law

Legal weed in Colorado is a mixture of many agents, the users, the industry and of course, the law. Legal recreational marijuana has had both support and opposition from law enforcement. Corissa Bosick is a deputy for the La-Plata Sheriff’s department in Durango, Colorado who supports legalized weed, but finds some issues in the future of the drug.

She notes that while she has seen the positive effects of legal marijuana, she has also seen the downsides. “ I strongly believe that the legalization of marijuana has opened a door of gateway into harder drugs. Overall usage of harder drugs seem to go up as marijuana is more accessible.”

While Bosick notes the negatives that can come from legal marijuana, she says she still supports legalization, stating that “legalizing it nationwide would cause less problems for the people in states where marijuana is legal.” In Deputy Bosick’s eyes, the major issue surrounding legal recreational marijuana is the fact that it is left up to the states, federal legislation would make it easier to police and control.

Bosick echoes the opinion that it would be better for Trump to remain quiet or to simply legalize nationwide the drug if he wanted to make a positive change. Further federal enforcement would do little but interfere with state law enforcement operations, and in her words, if more states were to legalize, it “would eliminate the problems Colorado and other legal states are getting.”

What will become of legal recreational marijuana in the Trump era is still an unanswered question, but for the users, the law and the industry, there seems to be the major opinion that the tidal shift in public opinion and the will of the people have pushed legal weed to a point of no return.

In this sense, the Trump era offers little real threat to already legalized states, and more so a threat to continued legalization. The next four years will be a time of ambiguity, but in the eyes of those involved within the industry, the future still looks bright.

One Response to Weed under Trump: is he to be feared or is he just blowing smoke?

  • Jake Pemberton
    Jake Pemberton says:

    The first thing that was grasping was the heading; weed and Trump do not go well together. So when I saw them together, I was immediately intrigued. I like the play on words too (“just blowing smoke”). The head paragraphs were informative and interesting, and provide links that took me to relevant sites to understand the background of what’s going on. The first photo is great as well; the focus and filling of the frame make it easy to study the color, texture, and size of the bud. The focus on the bud and blur of the background is nice, too. The sub-headers make it more organized, making the story easier to read. It’s cool how you broke up the story into “Users”, “Industry”, and “Law”, the main agents of the weed industry. The second picture is ominous and great as well, and good job ending the story with the “Law” aspect due to how the story is about how weed legalization will be now that Trump is “in charge” of the law. Good story.

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