Democrats Demand Trump Clarify Stance On Medical Marijuana

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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An Illinois state Democrat is demanding greater clarity from the Trump administration on whether they will be adversarial to state laws legalizing marijuana.

Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerich sent a letter to President Donald Trump Monday slamming the administration for teasing a possible crackdown on state marijuana laws but giving no follow up details. The absence of an official position on both recreational and medical marijuana by Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions leaves an uncertain legal future for medical patients and businesses involved in the industry, reports Chicago Tribune.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer fielded questions on President Donald Trump’s stance on marijuana legalization during a press conference Feb. 23, saying the Department of Justice is likely going to increase enforcement efforts of federal law.

“If the Trump administration seeks greater enforcement, then it should clearly define what this means so hard-working people in Illinois can make informed decisions,” Frerich said in the letter. “Vague statements undermining medical marijuana violate commonsense and only serve to hurt the people who have pursed this treatment as a last resort.”

Spicer did differentiate between recreational and medical marijuana during the press conference, signaling Trump may be less aggressive with state medical pot programs, but the administration has not expanded on those statements. Recent rhetoric from Sessions is only adding to anxieties within the burgeoning marijuana industry.

Sessions claimed Feb. 27 there is “more violence around marijuana” than people are generally aware, even dismissing research showing marijuana can help aid opioid addiction and serve as an alternative painkiller for patients with chronic pain.

Sessions will review and potentially roll back aspects of the Cole memo, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that directs the Department of Justice to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws.

Frerich also wants the administration to address the “significant banking challenges” facing those participating in the legal marijuana market. Federal law prohibiting marijuana often creates a barrier between weed businesses and banks, which tend to avoid money related to the substance.

If Sessions and the Trump administration move to interfere with state pot laws, it could cost the marijuana industry hundreds of thousands of jobs. A report released in February by New Frontier Data projects that an unimpeded marijuana market will create more than 250,000 jobs by 2020.

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