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Trump orders activists to stop saying he supports medical marijuana

Published on October 21, 2020
As a candidate, Donald Trump often touted his support for medical marijuana legalization. As President, he's actively attacked it. (Joshua Titus illustration for Leafly)

President Donald Trump’s campaign is telling a Mississippi group to stop saying that Trump supports a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care is a group promoting Initiative 65. It paid for a letter signed by several prominent Republicans, and the outside of the envelope said: “Join President Trump and 3 out of 4 Mississippi Republicans who support medical marijuana.”

The letter said: “President Trump Supports Medical Marijuana … and allowing states to decide on that issue.”

Election 2020: Mississippi medical marijuana legalization guide

Trump campaign: No, he doesn’t support medical

Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of the Trump campaign, sent a “cease and desist” letter to the group Oct. 12, and opponents of Initiative 65 released Glassner’s letter Tuesday.

“This unauthorized use of the President’s name in support of your group’s cause is unfair to Mississippi voters who may be led to vote ‘Yes’ on Initiative 65 on the false belief that President Trump supports the measure,” Glassner wrote. “Therefore, let us be clear about this: President Trump has never stated his support for passage of Initiative 65 or the legalization of medical marijuana in Mississippi.”

Initiative 65 would allow patients to use medical marijuana to treat debilitating conditions, as certified by physicians.

Election 2020: All you need to know about cannabis legalization on the ballot

Trump himself: “I think medical should happen”

The Trump campaign’s letter contradicts President Trump himself, however. At a 2015 rally, candidate Trump told supporters “I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I mean I think so. I know people that are very, very sick and for whatever reason, the marijuana really helps them.”

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“And then I believe you should leave it up to the states,” Trump added.

Here’s the video from that rally:

That wasn’t a one-off comment. In 2016, candidate Trump called into Detroit’s WWJ Newsradio 950 as Michigan residents head to the polls to vote in that state’s primary election. Asked about marijuana legalization, Trump said:

“I do like it, you know, from a medical standpoint — it does do pretty good things. But from the other standpoint, I think that should be up to the states. Certainly, from a medical standpoint, a lot of people are liking it.”

A bait-and-switch promise from the President

The Mississippi situation highlights a running theme with the Trump administration on marijuana policy: The President will say one thing, then actually do the exact opposite.

Instead of “leaving it up to the states,” his administration has removed federal safeguards, fought to kill patient protections, actively harassed legal cannabis companies, and used marijuana arrests to punish political enemies.

Mississippi campaign caught in Trump’s contradiction

Jamie Grantham, communications director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, said in a statement Tuesday that the group had accurately portrayed Trump’s position on medical marijuana. She said that “politicians and bureaucrats” opposing Initiative 65 “clearly orchestrated this letter from the Trump campaign.”

“It’s just the latest example of the lengths to which they will go to prevent any form of medical marijuana in Mississippi,” Grantham said. “President Trump himself has said he supports medical marijuana and is letting the states decide.”

A similar trap on the ballot

The Mississippi situation is rife with irony. Voters in that state are being asked to choose between two competing medical marijuana legalization measures.

Measure 65, created by medical marijuana patient advocates, would actually legalize the regulated medical use of cannabis.

Measure 65A, a fake alternative created by anti-legalization politicians, is a catch-and-kill measure meant to “legalize” medical without actually allowing medical legalization. (Leafly’s Max Savage Levenson explained the situation in an earlier article.)

More than 100,000 registered voters petitioned to put Initiative 65 on the ballot. The alternative was put there by legislators. Sponsors of the original initiative say the alternative is intended to cause confusion and kill the original.

Voting is a two-step process

There’s a two-step process for voting on 65 and 65A. The ballot first instructs people to “Vote for approval of either, or against both.” It then says, “And for vote for one” — either 65 or 65A.

Secretary of State Michael Watson said that even if people vote against both initiatives on the first part, they can still vote for one of the proposals on the second part.

Here is what a ballot for a voter who wants to truly legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi would look like:

Mississippi’s process for legalizing medical marijuana is a two-step deal. Here’s what a completed legalization ballot looks like.

This article incorporates material from The Associated Press.

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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