Donald Trump doesn’t like to be pinned down. Just when you think you’ve got him nailed on a political position, he turns around and says exactly the opposite. This is one reason marijuana proponents have good reason to fear him: Even if he backs legalization now, there’s no guarantee that won’t change in a month.
But what has The Donald actually said about legalizing marijuana? And assuming he gets elected (he won’t), what would a Trump White House actually mean for cannabis users across the country?
The best answer may be, who knows? As with most things, Trump has been vague and contradictory on the subject. Early in his career, he said he supported legalization. Later, he backed away from that and said he wouldn’t allow cannabis for personal use. But we do know he backs medical marijuana.
Support for medical marijuana
“Medical marijuana is another thing,” he said earlier this year. “I think medical marijuana, 100 percent.”
Part of the problem is that Trump hasn’t spent much time on serious discussions of criminal justice reform. He prefers to stick to red-meat populist topics: immigration, Obamacare, incumbents in Washington.
Once upon a time, The Donald was a big supporter of all-around legalization. It was the first Bush administration, the war on drugs wasn’t working, and legalization was still considered a contrarian approach – exactly the kind that appeals to Trump.
“We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said in 1990. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars. . . . What I’d like to do maybe by bringing it up is cause enough controversy that you get into a dialogue on the issue of drugs so people will start to realize that this is the only answer; there is no other answer.”
Of course, it’s impossible to peer into Trump’s mind, so it’s impossible to know whether he really meant those words. His work in real estate hasn’t given him a lot of opportunities to prove it by legalizing recreational drugs.
Contradictory comments to conservative audience
His comments in February at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference may give marijuana proponents more pause. Facing a decidedly right-wing audience, Trump said any legalization would be a mistake.
“I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about that,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado, some big problems.” Naturally, those words were subject to revision when Trump was asked whether he would uphold states’ rights to change cannabis laws: “If they vote for it, they vote for it.”
The best way to know whether Trump would push for legalization is to ask him, directly, during this campaign. Presumably that will happen at a debate before his candidacy flames out, but even then, there’s reason to take his answers with a grain of salt.
Donald Trump makes a living out of telling people what they want to hear. He does it better than he does anything else. And that means much of what he says is going to change, probably by a lot, depending on what makes him popular and what doesn’t. If he can rile one crowd by opposing reform and another by supporting it, expect him to do both.