By Alex Seibel
Washington- When Donald Trump and conservatives pulled off their 2016 election upset, drug policy reform advocates were not necessarily feeling despair.
After all, marijuana referendums also won, big league. Recreational marijuana referendums passed in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. Medical marijuana was legalized in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas, the latter of which being the first Bible Belt state to have it. Montana saw voters expanding its medical marijuana laws. On top of all that, the hope that Trump would stick to his campaign promise of leaving marijuana legalization as a matter for the states, mirroring Barack Obama’s approach to the issue.
Then, on November 18, there was cause for alarm. Trump announced his nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions R-Alabama for Attorney General. Sessions, who was confirmed February 8, is known for his opposition of marijuana legalization and his previous insistence that Obama should have taken enforcing federal marijuana law more seriously.
Still, American University student Justin Healy, a Libertarian, is not so concerned about federal interference.
“With the federal government, I don’t think we are going to be seeing a lot of large changes, Trump is probably right that it is going to be left up to the states,” Healy said.
Healy, age 20, a finance major in Kogod School of Business, is a new member of Young Americans for Liberty that is trying to get involved in the groups activism for drug reform this semester. Young Americans for Liberty is a national student political organization that advocates for libertarian values on college campuses, founded in 2008 with the endorsement of former presidential candidate and congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas. The American University chapter has yet to schedule any events for the semester, according to Healy.
Healy is not yet sure what role he specifically will have in the group’s actions for drug reform this semester, but he does have prior experience in speaking out for drug reform.
Healy said his home state of Massachusetts has been affected by the nation’s opioid crisis, and that dangerous forms of heroin with harmful additives are in circulation that contribute to overdoses. It is an issue that has affected him personally when some of his friends lost their life to the drug, according to Healy.
“When you are kind of removed from [heroin overdoses and deaths] you can take a very detached policy where you think… everything should be illegal and you don’t have to really critically analyze, but when the status quo isn’t working, that is when you have to start looking at alternatives and that is really what got me into it,” Healy said.
One of the most recent actions Healy was a part of was responding to the DEA designating Kratom a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has high potential for abuse and no known medical value.
Kratom is a milder opioid that many use to replace painkillers, including veterans with which the drug is very popular due to their need for pain relief, according to Healy.
“ I wrote to my rep to complain about (the designation) as did a lot of other people, and as a result they first delayed plans to schedule 1 and then they cancelled, so for the time being it is legal,” Healy said.
The legality of Kratom as well as the legality of marijuana in the 8 states and DC where it is legal for recreational use, may yet come into question. As far as marijuana goes, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a conference Thursday afternoon that enforcement of federal marijuana laws against recreational weed may happen. Sessions also wrote a memo reversing an Obama administration decision from last year to shut down private prisons, to “meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”
What exactly those future needs are remain to be stated.
If a crackdown were to happen on marijuana in DC, “there would definitely be some protests”, according to Healy.