Donald Trump will be inaugurated this month, and a wide range of companies, from pharmaceuticals to health insurers to industrial manufacturers, are wondering what kind of impact the Trump administration will have on their business. In most cases, they have little to go on, since Trump has never held political office. And so they’re left to weigh scattered comments he has made on television and Twitter against his general policy views.
After conducting that sort of analysis, a leading marijuana business publication believes there’s a good chance Trump will be friendly toward the tide of marijuana legalization, or at least not stand in its way. But the same cannot be said of Trump’s choice of attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions.
Marijuana Business Daily surveyed 18 “cannabis thought leaders,” including consultants, CEOs, lobbyists, and three members of Congress, to get their take on what Trump will mean for weed. The conclusion of the new report is more positive than negative.
“For the most part, experts all think we will see a continuation of some form of the status quo,” says Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily. “Maybe there will be some efforts to crack down here and there, but the consensus is that a widespread crackdown will be difficult. If Trump’s going to attack the marijuana industry—like the recreational side, or the new states that legalized—it’s going to be very difficult for him to do that. He’s going to have a very hard time unwinding all the time and money and effort that states have put into these programs.” Trump’s staff did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Four new states recently legalized recreational marijuana, bringing the total to 8 states and Washington, DC that have legalized recreational use. Twenty-nine states and Washington, DC have legalized medical marijuana. The size of the legal marijuana industry, by sales, is now estimated at $5 billion.
Why Trump could be good for marijuana
Trump is known to generally favor states’ rights over federal regulation, and cannabis has been a state-by-state issue. Trump’s public statements on marijuana legalization are scant, but at a campaign rally in October 2015, he said, “I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.” He also told Fox News that year that he supports medical marijuana “100%.”
This gives the medical marijuana community hope that Trump won’t interfere with the tide of progress. And support for medical marijuana among Americans is polling higher than 80% these days.
Trump also campaigned on a platform of creating jobs, and the legalization of marijuana in many states—both medical and recreational—has done that. If Trump wants to be seen as a job creator, taking aim at the marijuana industry wouldn’t make much sense; better to help continue its growth or do nothing to stop it.
Support for recreational marijuana is polling at around only 50%. “Does he want to wage a battle,” Walsh asks, “that will pit him against half the country?”
He might. And Walsh acknowledges that negative perceptions about recreational marijuana still dominate. (The marijuana industry has even taken to calling it “adult-use” instead of “recreational” to avoid negative images.) “In his bubble, if Trump thinks this is a bunch of uneducated, pot-smoking hippies, who are running amok being stoned all the time—and people still hold that stereotype, unfortunately, even though it’s not true—if he believes that, then you could see him making a case in his own mind that the recreational side needs to be reined in,” Walsh says.