White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.”
It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was coy about his approach last month during his confirmation hearing.
"Using good judgment about how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine,” he said. “I know it won't be an easy decision, but I will try to do my duty in a fair and just way."
Sessions has been a critic of recreational marijuana laws in the past.
Spicer telegraphed the administration won’t take a get-tough approach against medical marijuana, saying Trump believes in its ability to "comfort" people suffering from debilitating diseases.
But he said he takes a different view of recreational marijuana, linking it to the abuse of opioid drugs in states across the U.S.
There is little evidence showing a link between abuse of the two drugs. Some researchers believe medical marijuana could help reduce demandfor opioid-based painkillers.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Twenty others have laws allowing medical marijuana.
Groups that support legalized marijuana blasted Spicer's comments.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said a crackdown against legal marijuana would "represent a rejection" of limited-government principals backed by Republicans.
"It would be a mistake for the Department of Justice to overthrow the will of the voters and state governments who have created carefully regulated adult-use marijuana programs," he said in a statement.