By now, many have seen the headlines: "White House Spokesman Predicts More Federal Action Against Marijuana" (NPR), "White House: Feds will step up marijuana law enforcement" (CNN), "Marijuana entrepreneurs try to stay calm after Spicer comments on weed" (CNBC). It is hard to believe a minute and a half out of an hour-long press briefing could cause so much commotion.
Let's examine what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer actually said. He essentially said two things. He distinguished medical marijuana from adult use, and he believes "you'll see greater enforcement" of the Controlled Substance Act against recreational use.
Mr. Spicer did not say there were any imminent actions from the U.S. Department of Justice, the agency charged with enforcing federal law. In fact, he said the question of enforcement would be better addressed by the DOJ itself. Mr. Spicer was stating what he believes.
Here's what I believe. I believe Mr. Spicer's acknowledgement that the president supports state's rights when it comes to medical marijuana is a positive development. Mr. Spicer also referenced the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, first passed in 2014, which currently prohibits the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
"The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them," Mr. Spicer said.
So at least on the question of medical marijuana, there seems to be broad consensus. Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and accounts for about three quarters of the burgeoning legal cannabis industry.