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Trump: Cannabis Skeptic or Savior
by Justin Hall · January 16, 2024
As the 2024 presidential race heats up, a key question among freedom-loving and cannabis-supporting Americans is what a potential return of Donald Trump to the White House could portend for cannabis legislation. Former President Trump, currently leading the Republican field, recently articulated his views on this subject, providing insights into what his presidency might mean for the future of plant-medicine and smoky good times in the United States.
Trump's political persona has long been associated with a fervent advocacy for individual freedom and a strong inclination towards deregulation. His presidency was marked by significant rollbacks in regulations across various sectors, championing the cause of reducing governmental oversight in favor of market freedom and individual choice. This stance resonated with a large segment of Americans who viewed regulatory frameworks as overbearing and antithetical to the spirit of American liberty and entrepreneurship.
However, Trump's perceived commitment to freedom and deregulation seems to clash with Trump's stance on cannabis legalization. In a spring 2023 interview on Newsmax's “Greg Kelly Reports,” Trump, known for his abstention from alcohol, was queried about his stance on cannabis and its impact on the nation's competitiveness and psyche. His response was telling: “I mean, you see the same studies. It’s not helping people. I mean, studies are saying that it does damage. It does significant damage—and yet, from a voting standpoint, it’s a pretty popular thing.” This statement suggests Trump has a cautious, if not outright negative, view of cannabis and its effects on individuals and society at large. Which is crazy because most of the studies we read say the opposite of what he's saying but maybe we're in different media bubbles reading different studies from different interest groups.
Given Trump's skepticism about the benefits of cannabis, those tokers hopeful for significant pro-legalization moves under a potential Trump administration might need to save their party prerolls. Trump's remarks hint at a reluctance to endorse cannabis legalization, possibly due to concerns about its perceived detrimental effects. Watching his face in the video, he seems to have an almost visceral revulsion to the very idea of cannabis. Maybe he lumps weed in with addictive and debilitating substances. Trump has told a story about himself as a teetotaler, abstaining from alcohol in response to a brother who did himself in with drink: "Donald Trump feared addiction to alcohol was a disease that ran in his family and that he would follow his brother if he had a single drink," writes Michael Kranish in "Trump pressured his alcoholic brother about his career. Now he says he has regrets." from the Washington Post August 8, 2019.
Trump's negative attitude towards cannabis, as well as Ron DeSantis's, stand in stark contrast to the growing popularity of cannabis legalization among voters. Cannabis has grown in popularity amongst all Americans including Republicans - see Gallup's November 2023 research "Grassroots Support for Legalizing Marijuana Hits Record 70%".
However, there might be a golden glimmer of hope for proponents of cannabis legalization during Trump 2.0. Trump, a businessman at his core, is known for his keen eye for economic opportunities. The burgeoning cannabis market, seemingly ripe with business potential, might appeal to his more avaricious instincts. The financial allure and impact of creating the world's largest nationwide legal weed market could, in theory, sway Trump to consider legalization as a viable and lucrative option to please voters. But unless you just inhaled, don't hold your breath. No signs of a Trump-branded proprietary vape format, or weed gummies in the shape of his silhouette, yet.
While Trump's current stance on cannabis casts doubts on major policy shifts towards legalization, the evolving economic landscape and public opinion could potentially influence his approach. The intersection of business opportunities, voter preferences, and Trump's own views will shape the future of cannabis legislation in a Trump-led America. For now, cannabis supporters and freedom advocates may need to look elsewhere for more immediate and decisive action on legalization - the Art of the Deal is not yet the Art of the Dealer.