Highly Confused: Marijuana Businesses Under Trump

Jan 31, 2017 | Government Affairs

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

“[Marijuana] is a very real danger.”

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”

Those are all quotes from Trump’s Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, who has obvious concerns about the legalization of marijuana. In his confirmation hearings, he left many confused. On the one hand, he admitted that it might be an undue strain on federal resources to prosecute marijuana cases in states in which the drug is legal. On the other hand, he stated that he “won’t commit to never enforcing federal law.” (Translation of that double negative: he might enforce federal law)

That vagueness has left many legal marijuana businesses (and their attorneys) confused and worried about the future. While these businesses enjoyed rapid growth under President Obama’s administration, it is unclear what will happen under the new administration. Yes, Trump has said, “Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.” But he changed his tone when being questioned by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, at which time he did not seem to support Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry. He stated broadly, “[Legal pot] is causing a lot of problems out there,” and had said about Colorado’s “problem” at a Nevada campaign rally, “I really think we should study Colorado, see what’s happening.”

The perspectives of organizations on either side of the legalization issue don’t seem to shed any light as to the future of marijuana businesses:  perplexingly, they are both optimistic. Mason Tvert, director of communications for the legalization group Marijuana Policy Project, is hopeful because of the many congressional representatives who have changed from anti-pot to pro-pot. Tvert stated, “[I]n terms of marijuana policy, things are better than ever — both at state and federal levels.” And, on the other side of the issue, Kevin Sabet, co-founder of anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, confidently has stated, “President-elect Trump has promised to be a law-and-order president. I’m feeling much better [about the prospect of prohibition] than I thought I might.”

So what can the marijuana businesses in the 28 states and Washington, DC expect? Unclear. Only time (and more cabinet appointments, maybe) will tell.

On a related note, for those of you who represent marijuana business owners (or for those who wish to secure such clients), consider the ALI CLE program, Cannabis and Commercial Real Estate: Navigating a Budding Industry. The 90-minute program will explore the marijuana industry’s emerging real estate issues.