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On pot, Trump 'probably' siding with states, not with Sessions

On pot, Trump 'probably' siding with states, not with Sessions


We had to take Sen. Cory Gardner at his word in April. That's when the Colorado Republican said he had received assurances from President Trump that the White House supported "a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue" with regards to marijuana.

Up until that point, Gardner had been blocking nominees for Department of Justice positions, preventing them from being confirmed, until he was satisfied that substantive progress was being made on keeping Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who staunchly opposes marijuana — out of the business of states where pot has been legalized.

Trump was mum back then. On Friday, he spoke out.

"I support Sen. Gardner," the president said when asked about bipartisan legislation that would ease the federal ban on marijuana. "I know exactly what he's doing. We're looking at it, but I probably will end up supporting that, yes."

That Trump sounds ready to ignore the wishes of Sessions shouldn't come as a surprise. The president has repeatedly belittled the attorney general on Twitter and elsewhere, with the most recent installment tweeted May 30. Trump bluntly said that he wished he had picked someone other than Sessions to serve as his attorney general.

On pot, Sessions is unwavering. As reported by the Associated Press, the attorney general told Colorado Public Radio that his "view is clear. The federal law remains in effect nationwide, just as it does for heroin and cocaine."

There are only 20 states holding out against pot with no broad laws legalizing the drug. Nearly all of them vote consistently Republican. One of those states is Kentucky, home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposes legalization.

Trump's willingness to support the Gardner-backed legislation is noteworthy because the measure's co-sponsors include two Democrats who are among the nation's most liberal members of Congress: Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Portland and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Talk about strange bedfellows.

Blumenauer told the AP that momentum in support of the measure was building in the House of Representatives. "We just need Republican leadership in Congress to get on board or get out of our way, and for Trump to keep his word."

The way Trump waffles — just look at his back-and-forth opinions on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known more commonly as DACA — no one should consider support from the president to be locked in.

At least one marijuana foe feels the same way. Kevin A. Sabet, who leads a nonpartisan anti-legalization organization called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told the AP: "I don't think anyone would make a bet on the long-term validity of an offhand remark by the president that he 'probably' would support something."

Rep. Greg Walden, the Hood River Republican whose congressional district includes Grants Pass isn't a fan of legalized marijuana, but he said Congress will need "to figure it out" sooner or later.

"I still struggle with it," Walden said during a May 2 interview with the Daily Courier. "I didn't vote for it here. I don't think it's good for our communities, but the voters did act, and eventually we'll need to straighten it out."

Scott Stoddard