White House signals stricter enforcement of marijuana laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) — The White House is signaling its plans to be much stricter when it comes to enforcing federal marijuana laws.

The stance is a reversal from the Obama administration, which had decided to leave the issue of legalizing the drug for recreational use to the individual states.

Many are now wondering what this all means for states where marijuana is already legal.

Medical marijuana is permitted in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, and recreational use was recently legalized in Massachusetts.

At the federal level, marijuana is treated like any other controlled substance. It’s illegal just like cocaine or heroin. Now, there may be stricter enforcement of those federal laws.

During his daily media brief Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the Trump administration’s views clear: Medical marijuana is acceptable while recreational marijuana is not.

Stricter enforcement of federal laws would be new. The Obama administration vowed not to interfere with state marijuana laws, as long as the drug did not cross state lines and was kept away from children and drug cartels.

When asked if the federal government would take action against states with legalized recreational pot use, Spicer said, “That’s a question for the DOJ (Department of Justice). I think there will be greater enforcement of it. I think that when you see something like opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people – there is still a federal law that we need to abide by.”

The Department of Justice decline to comment on what Spicer said.

RI Governor Gina Raimondo (D) is open to legalization, but RI Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is not.

According to the Providence Journal, Kilmartin is already taking steps to fight future recreational weed bills. He’s sending an assistant attorney general to town council meeting all across the state.

The councils are given a packet full of ordinances passed by Rhode Island cities and towns that work to limit the drug.

Kilmartin has cited concerns about increased violence, dangers to children and poor adult work performance when high.

This town-level lobbying push began back in December and so far it’s hit seven cities and towns.

It’s clear the state’s attorney general has a much harsher view than the governor, who shared her opinions shortly after Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana.

“I want to get it right, I don’t want to rush it. It doesn’t mean I’m against it. It just means I want to get it right, and if that means taking a little more time, then that’s what I’m going to do,” said Raimondo.