Longtime Trump adviser and staunch conservative Roger Stone has a new mission: legalizing marijuana nationwide.
Stone announced on Friday at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in New York the formation of the bipartisan United States Cannabis Coalition, an advocacy group with the express purpose of protecting state’s rights to legalise and regulate marijuana.
The USCC is registered with the IRS as a section 527 nonprofit, the same tax-exempt status that applies to political action committees.
“I am going to be working with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, progressives and libertarians, liberals, and conservatives to persuade the president to keep his campaign pledge,” Stone said in a talk on Friday, “and to remind the president that he took a strong and forthright position on this issue in the election.”
During the campaign, Trump told The Washington Post that legalizing marijuana should be a “state issue,” and he expressed “100%” support for medical marijuana in an interview with Bill O’Reilly in 2016.
Marijuana is an illegal, Schedule 1 drug at the federal level, though a number of states have voted to legalise the drug for both medicinal and recreational use.
Stone said the USCC’s mission — beyond outright legalization — will be to reschedule marijuana to allow doctors to legally prescribe it and open up avenues for research.
As well, the USCC will work to ensure that the federal government won’t interfere with states that have legalised marijuana, and advocate for a fair tax policy for cannabis businesses. The USCC will also work for the “normalization,” of cannabis businesses within the banking industry, Stone said.
Many marijuana businesses are frozen out of traditional banks because it’s too risky for banks to deal with an industry that’s federally illegal.
In Stone’s view, Trump’s pledge to support state’s rights to legalise marijuana was “key factor” leading to a “slight edge” for Trump in the the 2016 election. Stone, who said he’s known Trump for “decades,” was an early adviser to Trump’s campaign.
It’s unclear how much clout Stone still has with Trump, however.
Trump hasn’t been friendly to marijuana since he took office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a noted opponent of marijuana legalization, and he asked Congress in recent days to roll back federal protections for medical marijuana.
The protections in question, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, directs the Department of Justice to refrain from spending money to enforce federal medicinal marijuana laws.
Sessions has also called for a review of a 2013 directive from the Obama Administration, known as the Cole Memo, which stipulates that the Justice Department place “low priority” on enforcing marijuana laws against businesses and organisations that comply with state law.
“In all honesty it’s time for [President Trump] to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to cut the shit,” Stone added.
Stone also called out Homeland Secretary John Kelly, who has called for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana.
Stone — who has been active in Republican politics since the Nixon Administration — hinted that he believes there are enough votes in the House to pass an outright legalization bill, though the Senate “would be much more difficult.”
“It’s our intention to identify, reach, and mobilize millions of pro-cannabis voters to urge the President to keep his word,” Stone said. “It’s our intention to lobby the Trump Administration from the top down to recognise the medicinal value and economic potential of cannabis.”
He also said that he’s getting into the business himself. He’s growing a new strain of marijuana in California — noting that he has all the requisite permits — called “Tricky Dick” after his favourite president, Richard Nixon.
Though Nixon may be Stone’s hero, he admitted that Nixon’s Administration ramped up criminal prosecution of drug users in the 1970s, which many say was the start of the so-called ‘War on Drugs.’
“That was the most egregious mistake of his presidency,” Stone said, though Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal.