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WASHINGTON The administration of President
Donald Trump may ramp up enforcement of federal laws against
recreational marijuana use, a White House spokesman said on
Thursday, setting up potential conflicts in states where the
drug is legal.
More than two dozen U.S. states have legalized marijuana for
either medical or recreational purposes, and the administration
of former President Barack Obama mostly looked the other way.
But White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Trump
Administration may distinguish between medical and recreational
use of the drug.
Spicer’s comments came on the same day that a nationwide
poll from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, showed
71 percent of registered voters favored allowing states to
decide whether marijuana should be legal.
“I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” Spicer
said at a news conference. “Because again there’s a big
difference between the medical use … that’s very different
than the recreational use, which is something the Department of
Justice will be further looking into.”
Spicer’s comments drew criticism from the country’s nascent
legalized marijuana industry as it was recovering from a scare
after Trump’s nomination of former Alabama Senator Jeff
Sessions, a long time anti-drug campaigner, as attorney general.
“It would be a mistake for the Department of Justice to
overthrow the will of the voters and state governments,” Aaron
Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry
Association, said in a statement.
Seventy-five percent of cannabis stocks in an index followed
by Arcview Market Research dropped on Thursday after Spicer’s
remarks, analyst Michael Arrington said in an email.
A spokesman for Sessions, who was confirmed as attorney
general earlier in February, declined to comment on marijuana
enforcement on Thursday.
But during his confirmation hearings, Sessions said his job
was not to enforce only some laws.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but it has been
legalized for recreational use in eight states, including
Washington, Colorado and California, as well as the District of
Columbia. Last year, legal sales reached $7 billion and
generated half a billion dollars in sales taxes.
Among registered voters in the Quinnipiac University survey,
just 23 percent said the U.S. government should enforce federal
laws against marijuana in states that have legalized it for
recreational or medical use, and 71 percent said it should not.
The poll of 1323 registered voters, released on Thursday
with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent, also showed
support for marijuana legalization among 59 percent of
respondents, with 36 percent opposed.
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