Trump's commission disagrees with the decriminalization of cannabis

Published Jan 17, 2021 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / olya_steckel

President Donald Trump established a commission that released a report that is critical of local efforts to legalize cannabis and decriminalize drugs. The Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement is a 300-page document that has several sections pertaining to cannabis. Now many are asking, what did the panel discuss to come to such a negative conclusion?

Who is this panel?

The panel consists of 18 members whose backgrounds are primarily in law-enforcement. One is an FBI deputy director another is the chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Several local sheriffs are also part of the panel, as well as the attorney general of Florida. In preparation for assembling the report, the commission held 15 hearings, and marijuana policy was spoken of at several of them.

A sheriff from Orange County, California, testified at the meeting that the federal government should be advocating for the removal of cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Through this proposed action, public safety would be promoted, and help would be available for the creation of a marijuana-impaired test to keep the public safe.

A federal prosecutor from California spoke about how he navigated the federal-state marijuana policy conflict. He informed the panel that his offence focuses on interstate trafficking of marijuana, which is considered a classic federal marijuana case.

The document also has quotes from the Vermont US attorney who states that decriminalizing drugs lessens the tools that the law enforcement has to work with. In some cases, according to the report, it sends a signal that the behaviour is ok and that there will be no consequences. The report noted that localities across the country had either reduced the sanctions for drug use or decriminalized it.

Two-sided talk


It has been challenging to define the approach that the Trump administration has on cannabis. From one side of President Trumps' mouth, he has been heard appointing numerous officials with hostile attitudes toward marijuana reform. The other side of President Trumps' campaign speaks nothing about a federal crackdown on legal cannabis states.

The commission seems to shed light on the dichotomy. While the panel was critical of marijuana legalization, the panel members also stopped short of suggesting that the federal government should increase prosecutions within the budding state-legal cannabis market, suggesting that they aren’t entirely against it.

Final thoughts

President Trump losing, what for him and his supporters, may have been his ultimate race, leaves us in a wait-and-see position. How President-elect Joe Biden's Justice Department will greet marijuana is still widely unknown. President-elect Biden has indicated that he is in favour of medical cannabis legalization and of the decriminalization of the cannabis plant.  He also favours an expungement for low-level convictions and is in agreeance with each state enacting individual policies without the fear of federal intervention.

Biden has just named his Attorney General, Judge Merrick Garland. Will he fill the open gap for federal prosecutors?  His ongoing opposition towards adult-use legalization is keeping people wondering. However, does the Trump commissions 300-page document have any bearing on how cannabis will be accepted by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris? No one knows for sure.

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