Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Cryptic Warnings From the Trump Administration Shake Recreational Marijuana Industry

Presidential spokesman Sean Spicer spuriously linked marijuana to opioid addiction and warned that the leniency extended medical marijuana won't be offered to the recreational industry.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Concerns in the legal marijuana industry heightened as the second month of President Donald Trump’s administration offered little solid guidance but plenty of dire warnings about how they will treat the cannabis industry.

Aaron P. Bernstein | Getty Images

For those looking for bad signs – particularly for recreational marijuana - there was plenty to point out.

In the space of one week, both Trump spokesman Sean Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions made comments about the federal government cracking down on marijuana businesses, particularly those who deal in recreational marijuana.

Despite strong reactions from everyone, there were few specifics from either official about what shape a federal marijuana crackdown would take.

The situation remains uncertain for adult-use cannabis entrepreneurs and investors. In one sign of that uncertainty, shares of Innovative Industrial Properties, the only marijuana-related stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange, fell almost 10 percent in the week following Spicer’s statement.

Related: 10 Cannabis Startups You Need to Watch

“Greater Enforcement”

Spicer got the latest round of marijuana news rolling the last week in February, when he told reporters “I do believe” people will see “greater enforcement” of federal law against recreational marijuana use. Marijuana, of course, remains illegal at the federal level.

Spicer did not elaborate, leaving people to wonder what “greater enforcement” means or how they would handle dispensaries that sell both medical and recreational cannabis, which is often the case.

Also, there are legal issues to untangle involving when federal law can supersede state law in places where adult-use cannabis is legal. There are now eight states with legalized recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

Related: Marijuana Advocates Wait for Trump's Stance on Legalized Cannabis

Marijuana and Opioids?

Spicer also seemed to connect opioid addiction to marijuana. There have been no studies showing that marijuana can lead to overdose in the way opioids have – the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that an estimated 15,000 deaths occurred from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2015.

In fact, the government’s own National Institute of Health has this to say on their website in answer to the question, “Can someone overdose on marijuana?”: “If you mean can they overdose and die from marijuana—the answer is no, it's not very likely.”

The site does go on to say marijuana can lead to accidents by impairing judgement, such as with driving. But obviously this is not death by drug overdose, and the same can be said for alcohol, which is legal in all 50 states and at the federal level.

 “A Violation of Federal Law”

Less than a week after Spicer’s comments, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions said yet again he is “not a fan of expanded use of marijuana” and spoke about a relationship between legal marijuana and violent crime. Studies have shown that no such relationship exists, according to CBS News.

Again, Sessions did not talk specifics about what he might do. However, he did say this: “But states, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

As of early March, Trump himself had still not spoken on the issue.

Follow on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest cannabis news.