White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently signaled that federal action against recreational marijuana use is in the works.
“There is a big difference between [medical] and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people,” he said during a Feb. 23 press briefing.
When pressed further by reporters, he added: “I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of [recreational marijuana].”
The Department of Justice, headed by the new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is the agency that sets the agenda for marijuana enforcement.
Jeff Sessions, a long-time marijuana critic, hasn’t said anything yet about what actions the Department of Justice will take. However, his attitude can be clearly seen in recent comments he has made.
“The states can pass whatever laws they choose, but I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store …. My best view is that we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana,” Sessions said at the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting, in a video on C-span‘s website.
During a Feb. 27 meeting with reporters, Sessions made it a point to say that “it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not,” according to news source Politico.
All of this has stirred up concerns among marijuana users that state laws legalizing marijuana use may no longer be tolerated under the Trump administration.
UCC Student Logan Martin is concerned about the federal government’s apparent desire to recriminalize marijuana: “How many people are already in prison for cannabis trafficking or production? If it’s something that we know helps people, and we know it isn’t as harmful as alcohol, then why are we putting it on that level?” he said.
Oregon legalized recreational marijuana in July 2015. According to a report from the Oregon Department of Revenue, over $60 million dollars in tax revenue were generated during 2016 from subsequent marijuana sales.
This revenue comes at a time when Oregon’s budget has a projected $1.7 billion shortfall, according to Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s foreword to the budget.
Less marijuana sales would mean less tax revenue for the State of Oregon to spend on important projects such as education and public infrastructure.
The Department of Justice has yet to cite any concrete facts about how states that have legalized recreational marijuana are worse off, but it’s easy to see how state budgets would be hurt by a crackdown.
Marijuana dispensaries throughout Oregon would have their businesses largely affected by such an action.
“It would of course hurt. Recreational retail is what we are. We did do medical before, but there’s quite a difference in the business,” said Mark Sutton, manager at Umpqua Green Cross.
Much of their new business “would just go back to the black market. That’s what’s been done for decades,” Sutton said.
Much of the country is waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.