White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday indicated that legal recreational marijuana states could be subject to “greater enforcement” from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Below are his remarks. The full transcript for the Feb. 23, 2017 briefing is available on the White House’s website:
Q: Thanks, Sean. Roby Brock with Talk Business & Politics here in Arkansas, the home of the rowdiest town halls in the nation.
I have a question on medical marijuana. Our state voters passed a medical marijuana amendment in November. Now we’re in conflict with federal law, as many other states are. The Obama administration kind of chose not to strictly enforce those federal marijuana laws. My question to you is: With Jeff Sessions over at the Department of Justice as AG, what’s going to be the Trump administration’s position on marijuana legalization where it’s in a state-federal conflict like this?
MR. SPICER: Thanks, Roby. There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.
I think medical marijuana, I’ve said before that the President understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them. And that’s one that Congress, through a rider in 2011 — looking for a little help — I think put in an appropriations bill saying the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after those folks.
There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of the medical — when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.
So I think there’s a big difference between medical marijuana, which states have a — the states where it’s allowed, in accordance with the appropriations rider, have set forth a process to administer and regulate that usage, versus recreational marijuana. That’s a very, very different subject.
Q: What does that mean in terms of policy? A follow-up, Sean. What does that mean in terms of policy?
MR. SPICER: Shannon. Glenn, this isn’t a TV program. We’re going to —
Q: What is the Justice Department going to do?
MR. SPICER: Okay, you don’t get to just yell out questions. We’re going to raise our hands like big boys and girls.
Q: Why don’t you answer the question, though?
MR. SPICER: Because it’s not your job to just yell out questions.
Shannon, please go.
Q: Okay. Well, first, on the manufacturing summit, was the AFL-CIO invited? And then, yeah, I did want to follow up on this medical marijuana question. So is the federal government then going to take some sort of action around this recreational marijuana in some of these states?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it. Because again, there’s a big difference between the medical use which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice I think will be further looking into.
After a unrelated questions about the AFL-CIO and Russia, ABC’s Cecilia Vega posed an additional question related to recreational marijuana:
Q: Sean, I just want to follow up. I want to clarify, make sure I understand what you said. You said, you will see greater enforcement of it?
MR. SPICER: I would refer you to the Department of Justice —
Q: But you said, you said there will be greater enforcement.
MR. SPICER: No, no. I know. I know what I — I think — then that’s what I said. But I think the Department of Justice is the lead on that. It is something that you should follow up with them, but I believe that they are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.”