Trump administration causing nervous ripple through pot industry

Marijuana business owners worried
Marijuana business owners worried 03:48

DENVER, Colo. -- Colorado’s governor condemns a potential crackdown on legalized marijuana by the Trump administration. Colorado is one of eight states, along with the District of Columbia, that allows recreational marijuana. More than half of states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs.

But the White House last week indicated it could step up enforcement of federal laws banning pot.

The Obama administration made it clear it would not crack down on states with legal recreational pot, reports CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen. The Trump administration is sending out quite different signals, and that is causing a nervous ripple through the pot industry.

Colorado is making a lot of green with $1.3 billion in annual sales of legal pot. But White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there may be a crackdown.
“Is the federal government then going to take some sort of action around this recreational marijuana in some of these states?” a reporter asked.

“I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” Spicer responded.

He said Mr. Trump supports marijuana for medical use. But in fact, federal law makes all pot illegal.
Bruce Nassau runs TruCannabis and is chairman of the Marijuana Industry Group.

“When you heard Mr. Spicer’s comments, was that a threat?” Petersen asked.

“Well, you certainly have to assume that it is something of a threat,” Nassau said.

He pointed out that marijuana is regulated and taxed from plant to pot shop. He said the industry sees tough regulations much like that wall proposed at the border, a line of defense against the black market.

“President Trump alludes to building a wall and keeping bad guys out. Well, that’s precisely what we are doing in the marijuana industry,” Nassau said.

Nassau said the industry is a “virtual wall... between the cartels and the black market and our society.”

Austin Wiggins remembers those days and much prefers buying pot openly in a shop.
“I don’t have to meet somebody in an alley way, it’s safe. I don’t have to worry about robbery or anything,” Wiggins said.

Widespread availability is changing attitudes. Americans once opposed legal pot. But a poll this month showed 71 percent do not want the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

The issue is a tough one for Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper who opposed the state’s constitutional amendment making recreational pot legal. But now that it is legal, he said he wouldn’t allow state cops to join any federal crackdown.

“If the Justice Department does aggressively begin to prosecute and try to enforce federal law in states like Colorado, where it’s in our constitution, I think that is a step backwards,” Hickenlooper said.

As pot goes mainstream, it’s creating a lot of jobs – as many as 22,000 in Colorado.
“Instead of a cartel from somewhere else some other country, we are American grown, we are American sold, and we are American consumed,” Nassau said.

“For American jobs?” Petersen asked.

“For American jobs. What more can you ask for?” Nassau said.

Pot is sold in containers meant to be childproof, and it’s not sold to anyone under 21. But those in the black market don’t have those kinds of scruples. They will sell to anyone, and that includes kids.