Sean Spicer Suggests Increased Federal Enforcement of “Recreational” Cannabis


WASHINGTON, D.C. — In response to several questions today by reporters at the White House daily news briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer strongly indicated that the Department of Justice will increase enforcement of federal laws against what he termed “recreational marijuana.”

The first question on the subject came from a local Arkansas reporter via a remote video feed who remarked on his state’s recent passage of a medical marijuana amendment, and asked what the position of the admonition will be on “marijuana legalization where it’s in state/federal conflict.”


“There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana,” responded Spicer. “I think medical marijuana, as I’ve said before – the president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, especially medical marijuana, can bring to them. And that’s something that Congress, through a rider [Rohrabacher–Farr amendment] in… 2011 … can I get a little help … I think put in an appropriations bill that the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after those folks.

“There’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana,” he continued. “I think when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people… There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of the medical… when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature. So, I think there’s a big difference between medical marijuana, in the states where it’s allowed in accordance with the appropriations rider … have set forth a process to administer and regulate that usage versus recreational marijuana. That’s a very, very different subject.’

The next reporter allowed to ask a question followed-up on the cannabis topic, asking, “Is the federal government going to take some action around recreational marijuana in these states?”

“I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice,” answered Spicer, who also corrected himself on the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment date. “I do think you’ll see greater enforcement of it, because again, there is a big difference between the medical use, which Congress through its appropriations rider in 2014 made very clear what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different from the recreational use, which is something I think the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

Following a few question on other subjects, a second reporter queried Spicer on his enforcement comment, asking, “So, will we see greater enforcement of it?”

After a brief hem-and-haw, Spicer replied, “That’s what I said, but I think the DoJ is the lead on that. It is something you should follow-up [on] with them, but I think they are going to continue to enforce the laws that are on the books regarding recreational marijuana.”

The subject did not come up again during the press conference, leaving unchallenged Spicer’s comment conflating cannabis use with the nation’s opioid addiction crisis.

Despite Spicer’s repeated direction to the media to seek clarification from the Department of Justice, the Huffington Post reported in a post published after the White House briefing concluded that “Department of Justice spokesman Peter Carr said that DOJ didn’t have ‘anything more to provide than what [Spicer] said at today’s briefing.'”