Trump Administration Promises Recreational Marijuana Crackdown

Ever since California passed the country’s first medical marijuana ballot initiative in 1996, an uneasy tension has existed between the states and the federal government. Now, almost all states have defied the federal government by passing some kind of pro-marijuana law, whether recreational, medical, or decriminalization. In fact, the list of states where recreational marijuana is legal has expanded to include Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C., and a number of American Indian reservations. This week, however, president Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer announced that the federal government will likely take steps to arrest the growth of recreational marijuana use.

“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and drugs of that nature.”

Spicer is, however, tragically wrong. Most drug overdose deaths involve opioids (e.g. oxycodone, fentanyl, and heroin), and states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 25% average drop in these overdose deaths. This is because significant numbers of people prefer to treat their pain with marijuana instead of opioids. While Spicer was clear to make a distinction between medical marijuana, which he says president Trump supports, and recreational marijuana, the data clearly suggests that expanding access to marijuana saves lives.

Spicer’s worry about encouraging people is also misguided. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual Monitoring the Future report, teenage use of most drugs, including marijuana, continues to either remain flat or decline. And states such as Colorado that have legalized recreational marijuana have seen that adolescent consumption of marijuana has not increased.

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