On Thursday White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hinted that the Department of Justice may do more to enforce federal laws on marijuana, inclusive of states that voted to legalize its recreational use, NPR reports.
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” Spicer told reporters during the daily White House press briefing. “There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. I think when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”
Spicer further detailed federal enforcement of medical and recreational use saying, “there’s still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”
The White House spokesman’s comments directly oppose a memo from the Obama administration which said the feds wouldn’t interfere in states where recreational use of marijuana is permitted.
If directed by the White House, the action could disproportionately affect African-Americans who are 3.73 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for marijuana, the ACLU reports.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed enforcing federal laws against marijuana remains widely unpopular–71 percent of Americans were against it, further proving the majority of the country supports marijuana legalization.
1 in 5 Americans live in a state where non-medical marijuana is legal for adults, and that number is on the uptick, NPR reports. Lawmakers in Maryland have recently proposed bills allowing recreational use. Medical marijuana usage is allowed in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
Supporters of the growing cannabis industry saw Spicer’s comments as a direct threat to a booming market which saw $6.7 billion in revenue last year, according to a report by Arcview Market Research.
Thursday’s press conference added uncertainty to an ongoing discussion regarding how the Trump administration regards states rights versus federal law. Several key issues like health care, transgender rights, and gun ownership detail hard lines drawn by conservatives in the battle between federal and state power.