Ethan Nadelmann didn't mince words: the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency is "the greatest threat to our democracy, our freedom, our constitution, our safety, since the American civil war.”
Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance and a self-described political centrist, stood up from his seat to emphasize that Trump is "like nothing we've ever seen." He was speaking at the Marijuana Business Conference as part of a panel entitled, "Win, Lose or Draw: 2016 Election Postgame," alongside Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom, and Executive Chancellor of Oaksterdam University, Dale Sky Jones.
While cannabis legalization was a resounding success on election night in the United States, excitement was tempered by the uncertainty surrounding a Donald Trump presidency. While President-elect Trump has said that he supports medical marijuana and will respect states' rights, his shifting policy positions have worried many in the cannabis industry. As Sky Jones stated later in the panel, "crackdowns are cyclical" and we could see a shift in policy now that the election is over.
The great threat is Trump's attorney general
While Nadelmann was unsparing when discussing Trump, he advised the crowd that the greatest threat would ultimately come from Trump's attorney general. Possible candidates include former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, under whom marijuana arrests in NYC skyrocketed, and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R), who once said that "good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
As marijuana has proven to be widely supported by the electorate, the cannabis industry probably wouldn't be subject to a "frontal assault", said Nadelmann. Instead, he warned of Trump's administration going after "some big fat targets," as when George W. Bush's attorney general, John Ashcroft, prosecuted cannabis icon Tommy Chong in 2003.
Sitting next to him, Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project was far less pessimistic. "Let’s assume we don’t have a complete collapse of government," he said after Nadelmann's fiery speech.
Kampia said that, ultimately, it was Congress that would make the difference, and not the White House itself. Congressional appropriations bills need to be passed annually, and language surrounding marijuana can expand legalization through the legislative process. "The next campaign," said Kampia, "is to influence federal law."
Meanwhile, Senator Segerblom was asked how Nevada would respond if Trump's administration cracked down on cannabis. He stated simply that he was "very into state's rights" and that "we're not backing down."
One way or another, however you feel about Donald Trump, the message of the panel was clear: in Nadelmann's words, cannabis activists need to “be mobilized."
Banner photo: Donald Trump addresses his supporters in St. Louis in March. (Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock)