In the weeks after the election of Donald Trump, cannabis advocates and industry players have struggled to find the path forward. It’s tough to know what to do when nobody knows exactly what the President-elect thinks about legalization. It’s an issue that puts two dominant themes–the historic conservative demonization of cannabis, and the Republican Party’s embrace of state’s rights–in direct conflict. Adding to the confusion: When it comes to cannabis, old red-blue orthodoxies have broken down. Many conservative Republicans are in favor of legalization. Plenty of liberal Democrats oppose it.
We’ve got to play it smart under Trump. Here are four ways to do that.
Like many people, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the very idea of Donald Trump as president. But what’s certain is that drug policy reformers are going to have to play it smart in the new era, and I do have some initial thoughts.
First, we’re in uncharted territory. We have never had a president like this—so far removed from establishment norms, openly promoting white supremacy, believing in and promoting wacko conspiracy theories. Complicating matters, he doesn’t seem to have fixed positions, rarely gives specifics and contradicts himself often. No one knows for sure what exactly to expect, but we should assume the worst.
His administration, which looks set to be staffed by drug-war extremists, could go after state marijuana laws. Instead of just opposing sentencing reform, they could push for new mandatory minimums. They might demonize drugs and drug sellers to build support for mass deportations and a wall. Trump’s law-and-order rhetoric could fundamentally alter the political environment, nationally and locally.
Right now there is a bipartisan consensus in favor of reducing incarceration—that consensus is in danger. We could be set back decades if we’re not careful. We need to rethink a lot of what we’ve been planning and think about how we message. And it’s more important than ever that we support our allies in other movements and stand strong for racial justice. We need to re-learn how to play defense.
Second, I know few people on my side of the fence want to hear this, but the threats posed by Donald Trump and his people are threats we will be facing for four years, maybe eight. We will be fighting them for a long time, and we need to recognize and internalize that.
We need to pace ourselves, choose our battles carefully, be strategic, and perhaps most importantly, keep our morale up. We need to find ways of supporting each other.
Third, we got to be crafty. We need to be careful not to box the Trump administration into making bad decisions, and we should try to box them into making at least semi-good decisions.
As one example, Trump said during the campaign that he would protect states’ rights on marijuana and that he supports medical marijuana. The more we repeat that and hold him to that, the better.
Trump has a yuge ego, his policy positions are fluid, he will want to get re-elected and he is easily influenced by media. We should exploit his weaknesses.
It’s especially important that we find ways to create division among Republicans, who now hold Congress and the White House. The more they disagree, the less they can get done. marijuanaTwo areas that stand out for us are marijuana and sentencing reform. We have enough Republican support on both these issues that we might be able to create dissent within the GOP if Trump tries to do something bad in these areas.
Finally, the rise of Trump and Trumpism has put a national spotlight on white supremacy and misogyny. Everywhere, people are now organizing against hate. Drug policy reformers should be part of that fight.
We can start by taking a hard look at our movement and the marijuana industry we have created. If groups draft legalization laws that ignore racial justice, we need to call them out. If dispensaries, marijuana magazines or other marijuana businesses objectify and demean women to sell their products, or if they exclude people of color, we need to call them out. It is long past time to clean up our own house.
It is my hope that for all the chaos and oppression a Trump administration is likely to unleash, his presidency will wake people up. That means us: Drug policy reform could be a revolution within a revolution.