When it comes to cannabis, it’s hard to say just what a Trump presidency has meant to the industry. It’s not as clear-cut as his record on, say, immigration, LGBTQ rights, the environment, or public health. But one thing is certain: As president, he’s made it pretty damn hard for those in the cannabis industry to thrive.
When Trump entered office, the cannabis industry was on the rise. Under Obama, there had been a shift in the climate — not just in popular opinion (as of 2016, 57 percent of Americans supported legalization) but also through some of his policies. Though cannabis remained on the DEA’s list of Schedule I drugs (codifying its criminality on a federal level) Obama’s justice department had issued the Cole Memo in 2013. That guidance stated that federal marijuana laws would not be prosecuted in states that allowed for cannabis operations, both medical and recreational. States began to relax; investors started to get curious. Markets in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington grew exponentially. The day Trump was elected president, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all voted to legalize adult-use marijuana. “The Cole Memo signaled to the cannabis industry that as long as you’re complying with the local laws, state laws, you’re good,” says Maritza Perez, director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action, the campaign arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Which is significant considering that marijuana remains a schedule one drug.”
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