With the news of Donald Trump’s presidency settling in across Colorado and the nation, some marijuana advocacy groups and industry insiders are feeling anxious about recreational and medical pot under the uncertainty of what a Trump administration — and Republican Congress — will mean for their business.
Trump has said he favors states’ rights and indicated he would not dismantle existing marijuana regulations, but some of his past statements and political allies have raised concerns in the industry.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for instance, who is leading Trump’s White House transition team, was adamant while he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination that he would seek to enforce federal pot laws.
“I really don’t know,” Bob Eschino, co-owner of the edibles brand Incredibles, Colorado’s largest edibles company, said of what to expect under Trump. “It’s really going to come from the Senate and the Congress and the people that are making the rules. I would think that Trump as a businessman would be all for states rights and job creation and everything we’ve been able to do in Colorado. But some of the other people that are involved with him, I question that.”
On Wednesday, marijuana legalization proponents remained cautiously optimistic that their industry would remain intact as they know it. One concern highlighted by observers and insiders is who will serve as the nation’s Attorney General, looking to the possible appointment of Christie or former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has also taken a hard-line stance against legalization.
After Tuesday’s election, 28 states and the District of Colombia have some level of legal marijuana for adults, be it medical or recreational.
Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who is an expert in marijuana law, says any effort by the federal government to come into Colorado or another state and try to enforce federal pot regulations would be extremely costly. It is, however, possible on some level.
“There are certain things the federal government can do and certain things it can’t,” Kamin said. “It can enforce federal law anywhere in the country, including states that have different policies. It could, if it desired, arrest people in Colorado who are complying with state regulation. That is the nuclear option because it involves a huge amount of resources and displacement.”
The federal government cannot, he explained, force states to reintroduce marijuana prohibition, and it has only limited power over what it can tell a state its marijuana policies should be.
“I think it would take an enormous effort in polarized political times,” Kamin said. “It’s not clear that that would be anyone’s priority going into a new administration.”
The marijuana markets might not be too big to pick apart, said Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at New York University’s Marron Institute.
“The thing that people should remember is, if the government wants to shut this down, they can do it on a day’s notice,” he said.
Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace — a backer of his southern Colorado community’s recreational marijuana industry and booming cannabis cultivation operations — while lauding Pueblo’s vote to retain its existing recreational marijuana market, was slightly tempered by the unknowns at the federal level.
“(Trump has said) he’s not changing any laws … I hope that’s the only campaign promise he keeps,” Pace said. “He is surrounded by a bunch of those who are terrible on the issue.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pledged to work with Trump’s administration while speaking with reporters on Tuesday night at an election watch party, though he didn’t talk specifically about marijuana and any conflicts with federal pot policy.
Beau Kilmer, a drug policy expert at the nonprofit Rand Corp., said it’s unlikely that any big changes to marijuana law would come soon. “In the grand scheme of top issues the new administration is going to be dealing with, marijuana is not going to be a top priority,” Kilmer told The Washington Post.