Donald Trump didn’t have a lot to say about legalized marijuana while he campaigned for president. In fact the few statements he did make seemed to dodge the question entirely. Which for legalization advocates seemed like a good sign. Most US presidents were pretty quiet when it comes to marijuana legalization.
Every politician knows legalization is more popular than they are. Definitely more popular than congress and definitely more popular than any voter’s perception of “politics” and politicians. People really like weed and they really like getting high legally. Whether it’s medical or recreational, people love weed.
Which is why even staunch opponents such as George W. Bush were hesitant to crackdown on medicinal marijuana. Even when it was pretty obvious that it was a work around for a lot of people. Opponents argued, probably with some merit, that medical marijuana was a shady and poorly regulated industry that hyped up the medical benefits of marijuana to pursue a legal avenue for pseudo legalization. That said, people didn’t care and lawmakers knew it, so with many exceptions they left it alone. Behind the scenes there were crackdowns, busts, and businesses viewed as legitimate at the state level were shut down.
Yet not even George W. Bush campaigned on shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries. Even while his DEA was actively shutting down hundreds of dispensaries he kept it on the down low. Bush knew that even his most conservative voters weren’t exactly gung ho about busting down the doors of legitimate businesses to push against democratically enacted policies they disagreed with. Which is why the Bush administration, and the Obama administration after them, never really got out of the whack a-mole game that was shutting down dispensaries as two sprang up on the same block. People simply like getting high too much.
That’s going to be a very familiar problem if the Trump administration goes after recreational marijuana. Especially in states like Colorado and Washington where legalization has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry with tens of thousands of people buying legal weed each day. Support for recreational marijuana is well over 50% and each election cycle it becomes even more entrenched. If the Trump administration wants to reel legalization in they need to do so against the grain of public opinion and probably against incredibly vocal opposition.
More importantly though any attempt to stem the tide of legalization will not be met with public support, it won’t be viewed as a legitimate use of government resources, and it’ll be hard to justify as more important issues pop up. Which is the exact reason previous administrations could never really repeal medical marijuana so much as periodically shut down certain dispensaries as they reappear faster than DEA agents can raid them.
And as long as there is weed to be smoked there will be people willing to buy it and stores willing to take the risk that is selling it.
Unless Donald Trump and his justice department can sway public opinion that has trended toward legalization for decades, any attempt to change marijuana policy will be wasted time and money.