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Drugs

Donald Trump likely to support ending marijuana ban, setting up friction with attorney general Jeff Sessions

By ending a federal ban, Trump would make it easier for individual states to legalise the drug, without fear of federal authorities – which Sessions has tried to bring down on pro-legalisation states

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 7:42am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 7:42am

US President Donald Trump said he likely will support a congressional effort to end the federal ban on marijuana, a major step that would reshape the pot industry and end the threat of a Justice Department crackdown.

Trump’s remarks put him sharply at odds with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the issue. The bill in question, pushed by a bipartisan coalition, would allow states to go forward with legalisation unencumbered by threats of federal prosecution.

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Trump made his comments to a gaggle of reporters Friday morning just before he boarded a helicopter on his way to the G-7 summit in Canada. His remarks came the day after the bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed their measure.

One of the lead sponsors is Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado republican who is aligned with Trump on several issues but recently has tangled with the administration over the Justice Department’s threatened crackdowns on marijuana.

“I support Senator Gardner,” Trump said when asked about the bill. “I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

The legislative proposal, which is also championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, would reshape the legal landscape for marijuana.

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California and eight other states, as well as Washington, DC, have legalised all adult use of marijuana. An additional 20 states permit marijuana for medical use.

But even as states legalise, marijuana has remained a risky and unstable business because of federal law making it illegal. In January, Sessions overturned an Obama-era rule that told federal agencies to leave states that had legalised marijuana alone.

Concerns about federal law enforcement seizures have inhibited most lenders from working with marijuana businesses. And investors have also proceeded cautiously.

A lifting of the federal prohibition would bolster efforts to create uniform testing and regulatory standards for marijuana, and potentially free scientists to pursue research into the medical uses of marijuana.

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Trump said he is likely to support the federal legalisation effort despite a warning against it from the coalition of narcotics officer groups.

“We urge you to see through the smoke screen and reject attempts to encourage more drug use in America,” they wrote in a letter to Trump Thursday.

Additional reporting by The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post