The “War on Drugs” has been an ongoing phenomenon since the 1970s, and yet every time a new president takes office, the question is raised: Will he be the president who ends this idealistic, failed war? Donald Trump is next on the list.
Trump’s rhetoric during his campaign initially gave some hope to those in favor of marijuana legalization and states’ rights:
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” Trump said in October 2015. “Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
While Trump has said that he thinks marijuana legalization should be left up to the states, and he has said that he supports researching the benefits of marijuana for medicinal purposes, there is one important piece to the puzzle that he is overlooking: federal classification.
Trump has taken the easy way out by saying that the states should decide, while leaving out the fact that under federal law, cannabis is classified on the highest level of dangerous drugs that have no medicinal value. Until it is reclassified, the FDA is limited in its ability to legally test cannabis for medical purposes.
While Trump has yet to call out the “War On Drugs” for the failure that it is, it’s important to remember that he isn’t running a monarchy, and to truly be able to see how his administration will operate, we have to look at the members of his cabinet.
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, is a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization. The Alabama senator has said he wishes the federal government would do more to fight back against the states that are legalizing it.
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say ‘marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” Sessions said in April 2016.
Tom Price, Trump’s pick for secretary of Health and Human Services, has a reputation for being one of the most anti-marijuana members of Congress. His voting record includes evidence that he is a vocal advocate for the federal government interfering with state laws on marijuana legalization, AND that he is against Veterans Affairs doctors having the right to recommend medical marijuana to veterans who might benefit from it.
One of the biggest problems with Trump’s cabinet is that that he has taken the positions that could actually have a hand in ending the “War on Drugs,” and he has filled those positions with the same people that remind us of why this effort has been such a failure in the first place.
Now, a lot of people might blame it on the fact that Trump’s cabinet is filled with Republicans, and it’s no secret that every Republican president since Richard Nixon has done his part to make drugs synonymous with fear:
“America’s public enemy #1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive,” Richard Nixon said in June 1971.
“We’re taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts; we’re running up a battle flag. We can fight the drug problem, and we can win,” Ronald Reagan said in June 1982.
“All of us agree that the gravest domestic threat facing our nation today is drugs. Drugs have strained our faith in our system of justice,” George H. W. Bush said in September 1989.
“Another big challenge is to battle drug use. Drugs undermine the health of our citizens; they destroy the souls of our children. And the drug trade supports terrorist networks,” George W. Bush said in February 2002.
Clearly, Republicans have fueled the failed “War on Drugs,” but what about Democrats?
While President Obama has made progress by granting clemency to a total of 1,324 people serving time for nonviolent offenses, there are still leaps and bounds of progress that could have been made in the last eight years.
As Obama leaves office, cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug, and to add insult to injury, CBD Oil was recently also classified as a schedule 1 drug. However, when asked about it during an interview in December 2016, Obama shared a newfound support for marijuana being treated like alcohol and tobacco.
“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea,” Obama said. “But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”
One of the biggest clues that points towards the continuation of the “War on Drugs” during Trump’s time in office comes from one of the policies he has pushed since day one: a border wall.
Trump has said he wants to build a wall on the border between the U.S. in Mexico to stop illegal immigration and the illegal drug trade. Yet, he seems to be missing the point about what cause the illegal drug trade in the first place. That, paired with his cabinet picks, paints a grim picture for those hoping to obtain freedom from the failure that is referred to as the “War on Drugs.”