BRANCHBURG, N.J. — A crackdown on states such as Colorado that have legalized medical marijuana remains possible despite a provision in the $1 trillion spending bill President Donald Trump signed on Friday barring the use of federal money for enforcement.
The bill, which will keep the government operating through September, was the first piece of major legislation signed by Trump,
Trump signed the bill despite his objections to numerous provisions in the measure, including a prohibition on the U.S. Justice Department using any funds to block implementation of medical marijuana laws by states and U.S. territories.
In a signing statement that accompanied the bill that laid out his objections, Trump said he reserved the right to ignore the provision. He held out the possibility that the administration could pursue legal action against states and territories that legalize marijuana for medical use.
Marijuana remains illegal for any purpose under federal law. The White House previously signaled a looming crackdown on recreational pot use.
“I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” Trump said in the signing statement, a tool that previous presidents have used to explain their positions on appropriations bills.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam; recreational use of marijuana has been legalized by Colorado, seven other states and the nation’s capital.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, when voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing patients and their caregivers to possess, cultivate and use the drug.
The proliferation of grow operations and dispensaries — Colorado’s so-called “Green Rush” — resulted from what has become known as the Ogden Memorandum. In 2009, David Ogden, a deputy U.S. attorney general under former President Barack Obama, issued a memorandum stating federal resources should not be used to prosecute medical marijuana patients and caregivers who were in “clear and unambiguous” compliance with state law.
In November 2012, Colorado became the first state to vote in favor of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana> Municipalities and counties can still ban the sale of recreational marijuana, and Colorado Springs has done so.
Federal law has remained unchanged, however, and Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has been an outspoken critic of legal marijuana, threatening at times to crack down on recreational and medical sales.