Gary Johnson: Trump marijuana reversal could doom re-election
Former Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson reacted angrily to President Trump’s apparent abandonment of a campaign pledge to leave pot policy to the states, saying he hopes the pivot ends Trump’s shot at re-election.
Gary Johnson, who served two terms as a Republican governor of New Mexico, said the Trump administration is “grossly underestimating the anger this will create.”
“I hope it dooms his re-election. Trump promised to leave marijuana to the states,” Johnson told the Washington Examiner.
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the 2013 Cole Memo, a policy document that allowed states to unfurl recreational marijuana markets. Eight states and the nation’s capital allow adults to possess recreational pot.
The Cole Memo said federal authorities could act if triggers were tripped, such as underage sales or interstate smuggling. Now, the Justice Department says individual U.S. attorneys can decide how to enforce federal law, which still makes nearly all pot possession a crime.
Gary Johnson has worked in the state-legal pot industry. He became CEO of Nevada-based startup Cannabis Sativa in 2014, promoting cannabinoid lozenges before stepping away from the company to run for president. He’s currently on the advisory board of CB1, a hedge fund investing in publicly traded marijuana companies.
Johnson, who took 3.3 percent of the popular vote against Trump in 2016 and finished third nationally, supported marijuana legalization before the idea gained broad public support.
While he was a sitting governor in 1999 he called for a taxed and regulated market. The Clinton administration’s drug czar Barry McCaffrey flew to New Mexico to chastise him at a press conference, saying, “He ought to be ashamed of himself telling a bunch of college students that marijuana was wonderful.”
Since then, pot legalization gained majority support in polls and most states legalized medical marijuana. A recent Gallup poll found support for legalizing recreational pot at 64 percent, with majority support even among Republicans.
Sessions’ well-known opposition to marijuana alarmed reform advocates since he was nominated to his current post. About a dozen activists snuck pot into his Senate office last year, offering some to staff before openly rolling a joint. Lobbyists representing pot businesses made their case with less flair.
Throughout 2017, Sessions rarely made a speech without mentioning marijuana, sometimes expressing fear that it might one day be sold at grocery stores. A draft of one speech called pot use “only slightly less awful” than heroin addiction.
When Trump thrashed Sessions on Twitter over the summer, one pro-marijuana legalization group planned an actual party in the event he was fired.
As a candidate, Trump repeatedly said he would defer to states on marijuana.
“I wouldn’t interfere because I think that really is a local issue. When you look at what’s happened in Colorado as an example, it’s a local thing,” Trump told CBS Boston in February 2017. “I wouldn’t interfere with it. I think that’s something that really is very much up to the local area.”
Forbes recounts several similar assurances, including Trump’s statement at a campaign rally that “I really believe you should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation… In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday that President Trump now “strongly believes” in enforcing federal law against marijuana possession.
“The president’s position hasn’t changed,” Sanders said.
Johnson disagrees. “Trump promised this would not happen,” he said.
Gary Johnson says leave it up to the States to decide, Trump not keeping promise could ruin his chanced for re-election in 2020.