Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer said yesterday that he believes "you'll see greater enforcement" of federal drug laws in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
The remarks have harshed the mellow of an industry celebrating California's November passage of Proposition 64, which allows anyone 21 and older to legally possess up to one ounce of weed and will allow retail purchases of recreational weed starting in 2018. Marijuana entrepreneurs have been chomping at the bit at the prospect of a projected $6.6 billion in legal pot revenue in California by 2020.
If you'd like to envision what federal raids on otherwise legal marijuana enterprises in Los Angeles look like, you only have to go back a few years. In 2014 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided four medical dispensaries in town. And in 2011 the DEA cracked down on medical pot shops in West Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and the Antelope Valley. One Southern California dispensary operator was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2013 for selling medical weed. The Obama administration later softened enforcement, and in 2014 Obama signed into law a cessation of funding for federal crackdowns in medical marijuana states.
"There were people who lost their freedom as a result of aggressive federal agents targeting key players," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "This is a good time for everybody involved to batten down the hatches and move forward carefully and strategically."
Spicer differentiated medical and recreational cannabis, saying that his boss "understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them." He also acknowledged that Congress has blocked Justice Department funding for crack downs on state-recognized medical marijuana concerns.
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Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.