A wild week for weed

POTUS and a prominent former high-ranking GOP official make a U-turn on cannabis

Last week was a weird one in the world of marijuana news. In a stretch of a few days, both President Trump and former Speaker of the House John Boehner made about-faces with regard to their stances on the herb.

First up was Boehner, a Republican who, out of the blue last Wednesday (April 11), announced via Twitter that his thinking on cannabis had “evolved.” “I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities,” Boehner wrote. Notably, less than a decade ago, the former GOP power broker referred to himself as “unalterably opposed” to legalization.

A few days after Boehner’s announcement, national media outlets began reporting that the president had directed the U.S. Department of Justice to stay out of the business of states that have legalized cannabis use, both for medicinal and recreational purposes. White House staff later confirmed that reports on the president’s policy reversal were accurate.

It’s an interesting development, especially since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the beginning of the year that the DOJ planned to toss out an Obama-era memo that called for a hands-off policy. Indeed, marijuana advocates expected a major crackdown this year.

POTUS reportedly didn’t inform Sessions, a longtime cannabis opponent, in advance of the abrupt change in course. That move fuels recent reports that the relationship between the AG and the commander-in-chief have soured further in the wake of Sessions recusing himself from the investigation into alleged Russian collusion.

So, what does this all mean long-term for the nation’s cannabis industry? It’s hard to tell, since the president is a serial flip-flopper. What we do know is that he has bigger issues to attend to than going after the 30-plus states that have diverged from the federal government on pot.

At least for now, it’s good news for local jurisdictions, like Oroville, looking to get on board with commercialization. Congressman Doug LaMalfa and others who oppose such a move have clung to the argument that the federal government has vowed to crack down on cities and counties—potentially even withholding funding—that choose to legalize. That argument just lost its teeth.