Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, February 12, 2016

Noting the (pro-reform) nuances of Donald Trump's latest comments about marijuana policies

I had noticed earlier this week that GOP Prez candidate (and seeming front-runner) Donald Trump had a few notable comments about marijuana policy during an interview with Bill O'Reilly.  Helpfully, this new High Times piece by Jon Gettman, headlined "Pot Matters: Trump on Marijuana," not only details what Trump recently had to say on this topic, but also explains why his latest comments suggest The Donald is generally supportive of at least some marijuana reform.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts:

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is hedging his position on marijuana legalization, but is “a hundred percent” in favor of medical marijuana. Nonetheless, Trump’s stated position on legalization is evolving, because he has acknowledged that “in some ways” legalization “is good.”

Trump, speaking to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News this week, was asked about his position on marijuana legalization in Colorado. After expressing some concern over the health effects of marijuana, he was pressed by O’Reilly about what he would do to stop it. Trump then confessed that “I would, I would really want to think about that one Bill because in some ways, I think it’s good and in other ways, it’s bad.” But then Trump hastened to point out his unequivocal support for medical marijuana, explaining that “I know people that have serious problems... and... it really, really does help them.”

Trump’s cautious approach to legalization is based on uncertainty, as he sees it, about the impact of legal marijuana use on people’s health. He ignored O’Reilly’s opening claim about “dealers, all the pushers... going to Colorado loading up... on pot... and then zooming around the country selling it.” When asked if that concerned him, Trump responded that “it’s a real problem.” But then Trump changed the subject, explaining that “there’s another problem... the book isn’t written on it yet, but there’s a lot of difficulty in terms of illness and what’s going on with the brain and the mind, and what it’s doing... it’s coming out, probably, over the next year or so.”

Asked then if he would stop it, Trump paused, hesitant to commit himself as a presidential candidate to push back against Colorado’s program. “I do want to see what the medical effects are,” he said. After repeating this twice, Trump then volunteered his complete support for medical marijuana, continuing with his pro medical marijuana comments—in spite of O’Reilly’s claim that “medical marijuana is a ruse.” Faced with Trump’s support for medical marijuana and his personal familiarity with medical cannabis patients, O’Reilly conceded that “I know, and they’re taken care of.”

Aside from his support for medical marijuana, the most interesting comment that Trump made about his position was that “in some ways, I think [legalization] s good.” It will be interesting, over the course of the campaign, to hear Trump elaborate on this comment. In this interview, he laid out why “in other ways it’s bad,” but apparently it’s not bad enough to justify a definitive statement opposing legalization. Why not?...

Trump was originally for legalization in 1990 as the only way to win the War on Drugs but has expressed his reservations about legalization during this campaign. His rivals in the nomination contest have all expressed reluctance to interfere with state-level legalization policies because they believe states have the right to set their own policies. Trump’s comment to O’Reilly that legalization is good in some ways moves beyond tolerating legalization as a state’s right by recognizing the potential public policy benefits of Colorado’s approach.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2016/02/noting-the-pro-reform-nuances-of-donald-trumps-latest-comments-about-marijuana-policies.html

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