By Luke Sumpter

Since announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Us presidential elections in June 2015, Donald Trump has received all kinds of media attention.

His hard stance on immigration, opposition to climate change, support for increased military spending, and offensive comments about women have divided one of the most powerful nations in the world.

However, one issue president Trump has said very little about is cannabis.

Over the last years, the US has lead the charge in legalizing the substance both for medical and recreational use. More and more states are choosing to legalize the substance to some degree, creating a new industry estimated to be worth close to $7 billion.

The legalization of cannabis is arguably one of the issues, that most unites Americans, with over half of the population voting in favour of legalizing the drug completely.

In this article, we explore what’s in store for cannabis in the US under the Trump administration. For more articles like this, make sure to bookmark our blog.


Before we discuss Trump’s individual stance on cannabis legalization, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of the laws governing cannabis in the US.

Here’s a quick overview of the legalization movement and the current status of the substance in the country.

cannabis industry legalization USA california new market law Trump


The US declared cannabis an illegal substance in the early 20th century, with the first major federal restrictions taking effect in 1937 after the federal government passed the Marijuana Tax Act.

In 1970, the government passed the Controlled Substances Act, which banned marijuana and several other drugs and replaced the original act of q937.

While the movement to overturn these outdated policies and push for cannabis to be legal in the US has gotten a lot of media attention over the last years, it actually started over 20 years ago.

In the 1970s, and 80s, states like Oregon, Maine, Texas, and Colorado (among many others) began decriminlazing cannabis to various degrees. In 1973, for example, Texas law was amended to declare possession of four ounces or less a misdemeanor.

The most iconic shift in policy, that is often considered the beginning of the legalization movement in the US took place in 1996, when California passed the historic Proposition 215, legalizing cannabis in the state for medical use.


On a federal level, cannabis remains a schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act. In order for a substance to classify as a schedule 1 drug, it needs to demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • A high potential for abuse.
  • No accepted medical use.
  • A lack of accepted safety for the drug to be used under medical supervision.

Except under specific authorisation, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, any schedule 1 substance.

Despite federal law, some states have decided to invoke new policies regarding the legality of cannabis. 28 states in the US currently have medical marijuana programs, while 8 states and the District of Columbia have legalized weed for both medical and recreational use.

While states have the ability to pass their own laws, it remains a violation of federal law to distribute cannabis in any part of the US. States with legalized marijuana programs, however, have a bit of extra leeway.

In 2014, Congress passed a spending bill, that bars the Justice Department from using funds to go after state medical cannabis programs. The provision remains in place.

cannabis demonstration USA states legalized Trump


It’s hard to decipher President Trump’s precise stand on marijuana.

In an interview with a television station in Denver, Trump clearly stated, that he believes states should decide for themselves whether to legalize cannabis or not.

“I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely,” he said.

Arguably the biggest threat to the cannabis industry and the legalization from the Trump administration is the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In April 2016, in a senate hearing on marijuana reform, Sessions said, that, “good people don’t smoke marijuana”. He has also been stated saying, that cannabis is a gateway drug and that legalization will lead to an increase in cocaine and heroin use.

However, many believe it is unlikely, that Trump will take a hard stance against marijuana.

Support for legalization reached an all-time high in 2016, with 60% of Americans stating in favor of all out legalization.

Plus, many of the states, that supported Trump in the elections have legalized cannabis to some degree.

Tom Angell, chairman of pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, believes, that Trump is unlikely to try and challenge those statistics and row against the current.

“[A] crackdown against broadly popular laws in a growing number of states would create huge political problems they don't need,” he told the Business Insider in November.

In a recent article in BI, Melia Robinson suggests 2 main ways Trump could act on the issue of cannabis legalization

Firstly, he may continue to let states make their own laws regarding the issue while blatantly ignoring federal law. Secondly, he might support the legalization movement on paper, but undermine it through practice, by keeping marijuana classified as a schedule 1 drug, raiding dispensaries and spreading fear through the industry, or penalizing, banks that work with cannabis companies.

Finally, Trump also has the option of waging all out war on the industry, that is expected to be worth $21 billion by 2021.

The future for cannabis in the US is uncertain under the current administration, and we won’t know Trumps true stance on the issue until he decides to tell us. Until then, we suggest anyone in a legal state makes the best of good days while they still can.


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