Will Donald Trump go where no other president has gone before and legalize recreational marijuana in the United States? If you're Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci or Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, you seem to think he will.
“I think he's waiting for after the midterms,” Scaramucci told Charles Peralo of Succeed.com in an Oct. 30, 2018 interview.”I think he's on the side of legalization.”
Rohrabacher told Fox News on Oct. 11, 2018: “I would expect after the election we will sit down and we'll start hammering out something that is specific and real.”
But with the Nov. 6, 2018, General Election day 2018 less than 24 hours away, some voters could be justified in thinking this is just another cynical campaign ploy to pacify pro-legalization Republicans, given Trump's record on fulfilling his campaign promises.
The Art of The Deal: Big Promises, Little Action
In 2016, Trump campaigned on myriad issues, including building a wall along the Mexico/U.S. border (paid for by Mexico, somehow), pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, reducing taxes for all U.S. citizens, and dismantling the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with health “insurance for everyone.”
Sounds pretty good, right? Sure, but when you get into the weeds and examine how the Trump administration has made good on each of these promises, the situation starts to look less promising.
Less than 14 percent of Trump's campaign promises have been kept, and a whopping 33 percent have stalled, including not cutting Medicaid and Medicare and providing guaranteed six weeks of paid maternity leave, according to PolitiFact.
Once elected, Trump and the GOP passed a tax plan that disproportionately benefited the ultra-wealthy, failed to make progress on the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and have increased military action in Afghanistan.
The only “concession” with regards to marijuana reform came in April 2018, after Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner promised to block Department of Justice (DOJ) nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo in January 2018. Trump made a “commitment” to Gardner to support congressional efforts to protect states that have legalized marijuana, according to CNBC.
Sounds pretty good, right? Sure again, but the enthusiasm was short lived. In August 2018, BuzzFeed News exposed the Trump Administration's Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee's efforts to extract “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” from 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration and to “message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana.”
The news left many congressmen frustratingly scratching their heads. In early October 2018, Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia told Rolling Stone: “My question is, who is in charge over there? It borders on ridiculous. The president is right on this issue. The gatekeepers need to do their job, not undermine good policy.”
Trump Says What You Want to Hear from Him
It wouldn't be a full conversation into Trump's confusing decision making without bringing up what the public thinks: Legalize recreational weed already.
On Oct. 22, 2018, Gallup published a poll that indicates 66 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization and 53 percent were Republicans. In short, the majority of Americans think it's time to legalize marijuana. But is the issue important enough to sway voters? That remains to be seen.
But back to the fear and loathing that seems to be Trump's 2018 campaign strategy: While Trump is probably less interested in becoming America's great marijuana emancipator, he's always shown a Michael Scott-like interest in the overwhelming public support for any given issue. You want health insurance, lower taxes, and safer borders? Trump has no problem promising getting those things done and handing you an IOU when it comes time to collect. With the 2020 presidential election just two years away, campaigning on marijuana legalization would most likely poll well as he looks to get re-elected.
Will he actually pull through on marijuana legalization? Unlikely. Such a wide-sweeping policy change would take a massive amount of hard work, dedication to sound policy, and bipartisan cooperation, all traits this administration is short on.
But if the 2016 election and Trump's sporadic policy messaging are any indicators, we don't know what the hell is going to happen. What we do know is that action matters more than words, or, in Trump's case, “stalled” promises. Find out who has walked the walk when it comes to cannabis policy, and who is simply blowing smoke. See you at the polls.