Donald Trump’s position on cannabis has been tough to pin down. During the 2016 campaign, he stated that he supported medical use and that he was a believer in states’ rights regarding legalization. However, the hiring of Reefer Madness prohibitionist Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, signing statements regarding his administration’s ultimate right to enforce federal cannabis laws regardless of state legalization laws, and comments by members of his staff, have caused confusion.
That confusion has only been exacerbated by a recent interview of Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who has a an anti-cannabis history, and the ensuring Twitter beef that sprung out of the interview with reporter Matt Laslo. Marijuana Moment reported:
President Donald Trump’s stance on marijuana legalization became the jumping off point for a spat between a top White House aide, Republican operatives and a reporter on Thursday after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows laughed off a question about the prospects of broad cannabis reform advancing before the election in November.
But the controversy wasn’t solely about the administration’s position on legalization; rather the dispute centered on how freelance reporter Matt Laslo characterized the conversation on Twitter, where he said that Meadows suggested pro-cannabis reform Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) “has been misleading voters on marijuana” and that “Trump has no plan to lift a finger on cannabis legalization or even normalization.”
Laslo also shared audio from the interview and wrote that it showed Meadows “mockingly laugh when I ask if Trump plans to carry through on his promise to [Gardner] to relax federal marijuana laws.”
Some Republicans pushed back on Laslo’s characterization of Meadows’ response and the implications that Colorado Senator Cory Gardner has been misleading his constituents. Gardner is seen as very vulnerable Republican who the Democrats hope to defeat this November. With legalization very popular in Colorado, the issue is an important issue for his re-election prospects.
Mark Meadows did not say Senator Gardner was misleading on anything—this is a blatant mischaracterization https://t.co/bdi4GPBUOy— Ben Williamson (@_WilliamsonBen) June 18, 2020
Laslo responded to his Republican critics on Twitter:
“The WH later tried to spin this as Meadows actually just laughing at another funny joke…,” pens @colo_politics. But…”the word has been out for some time that Gardner isn’t accomplishing squat for a legal marijuana industry he has tried to embrace.” https://t.co/TtbmQ0SjpU https://t.co/GHLDxcpPOX
— Matt Laslo (@MattLaslo) June 19, 2020
As Politico reported, any type of cannabis legalization legislation would help Senator Gardner, but he hasn’t been able to move the needle in the Republican-controlled Senate:
But so far, the GOP’s most ardent promoter of cannabis in Congresshasn’t delivered any legislative wins for the state’s $1.7 billion, rapidly growing cannabis industry, where marijuana was legalized in 2012. The two major cannabis bills Gardner sponsors — one to increase access to banking and capital for the cannabis industry and one to codify federal protections for states that choose to legalize marijuana — have not advanced in the Senate at all, despite the banking bill passing the House with a bipartisan majority last fall. Gardner does not support any bill that would legalize cannabis nationwide.
“At some point, I have to go to Cory Gardner and say, ‘Why should the industry continue to support you?’” said Marijuana Policy Project’s Don Murphy, a former Republican lawmaker in Maryland. “I know you’re trying, but you’re not getting anything.”
With so many issues facing our nation, it seems unlikely that cannabis legalization legislation will be passed by Congress. With a lot of negative stories dominating the news cycle, it would certainly benefit Trump and Gardner to have a feel-good cannabis story make some headlines, but each day that passes, it seems more and more unlikely this term. We’ll see what the next four years will hold.