Legal cannabis is a $22 billion-a-year industry in the United States. That's "billion," with a "B". Most states now allow medical cannabis and over 68 million American adults can legally buy recreational cannabis. Less than 20 years after California began cannabis legalization, the industry is set to surpass the tobacco industry and rival the size of the alcohol industry.
Still, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. In fact, the whole industry rests on a memorandum from the Justice Department that basically promises not to prosecute people involved in the industry in states where it is legal. That "promise" was the product of the Obama administration policy, does not have the force of law, and can be revoked with the stroke of a pen. In a lawsuit against the legalizing states brought by the Trump administration, there is no question that state legalization laws would be declared unconstitutional and the states ordered to immediately shut down all of their cannabis businesses.
With tens of thousands of business owners and employees nationwide technically on the hook for federal felonies, people in the industry are understandably worried about their futures under The Cheeto. Will they be rounded up and thrown in jail in massive sweeps, as he promised for undocumented immigrants? Will their names be put on a do-not-hire list, similar to the promised "registry" for Muslims in the U.S.? As Marijuana Business Daily editor Chris Walsh so succinctly put it, when it comes to cannabis, "No one knows what Donald Trump is going to do."
In 1990, Trump told the Miami Herald that the U.S. needs to "legalize drugs to win" the War on (Certain) Drugs. Recently, Trump said "Marijuana is such a big thing," and, "I think medical should happen – right? ... And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states." Trump seemed to be referring to recreational cannabis in the latter part of the statement, favoring legalizing cannabis for medical use and leaving it to the states to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
In February, Trump told Bill O'Reilly that he is "in favor of medical marijuana one hundred percent," but called Colorado's recreational industry "a real problem." Trump's statements on the matter are inconsistent and incoherent, and the campaign's website offers no definitive position.
But one thing is clear: The Trump administration will be filled with staunch prohibitionists. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is against all forms of cannabis legalization and use. So is Jeff Sessions, the current Alabama senator who was rejected from the federal bench in 1986 at least in part for his alleged derogatory statements against civil rights groups. Now he's the soon-to-be attorney general who will oversee the Justice Department under Trump. In a Senate hearing earlier this year, he gave perhaps the clearest position statement of all, saying, "Good people don't smoke marijuana."