US President Donald Trump said he likely will support a congressional 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.
The President remarks place him in conflict with U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an outspoken opponent of marijuana who lifted an Obama administration policy and freed federal prosecutors to more aggressively pursue cases in states that have legalized marijuana.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo), one of the lead sponsors, who is aligned with Trump on several issues but recently has tangled with administration over the Justice Department’s threatened crackdowns on marijuana.
Trump made the remarks ahead of his departure for this weekend’s G7 summit in Quebec.
“I support Sen. 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.”
Gardner said the legislation would ensure Washington respects the will of voters in each state, whether laws provide for legalization or prohibition.
In a statement released Thursday, he said that the federal government “is closing its eyes and plugging its ears” to spreading legalization, but Washington should not interfere with any state’s legal marijuana market.
California and eight other states, as Washington D.C., legalized all adult use of marijuana. An additional 20 states permit marijuana for medical use. California is the world’s largest legal recreational marijuana economy – created under a law that took effect this year – and is projected to grow to $7 billion in revenues.
Sessions’ action, just three days after a legalization law went into effect in California, threatened the future of the young industry, created confusion in states where the drug is legal and outraged both marijuana advocates and some members of Congress, including Sessions’ fellow Republicans.
A major problem stemming from the federal ban: Major banks have been reluctant to do business with marijuana companies, fearing it could lead to prosecution. In California, for example, paying taxes and other transactions are often carried out in cash, sometimes in vast amounts.