Enforcement of the nation's laws surrounding marijuana despite states legalizing its use in one form or another would be a grave "mistake," one of the leading pot advocacy groups said in a statement directed at the federal government Thursday. The statement came hours after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced during a media briefing that the administration of President Donald Trump would bring "greater enforcement" of federal laws for recreational marijuana.

“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,"  National Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Aaron Smith said in the statement. "It would represent a rejection of the values of economic growth, limited government, and respect for federalism that Republicans claim to embrace."

Eight states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, while medical marijuana has been legalized in 28 states.

Spicer noted the distinction during his press briefing Thursday.

“There’s a big difference between the medical use, which congress has through an appropriations writer in 2014 made very clear what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different than the recreational use, which is something I think the Department of Justice will be further looking into,” Spicer said.

The marijuana industry is one of the fastest growing business sectors in the nation, having generated $6.7 billion in total sales in 2016. It was also projected to generate up to $28 billion in tax revenue annually in just the first two states that legalized the drug for recreational use — Colorado and Washington. In Colorado, those taxes were appropriated by and distributed among various state agencies, including the education, human services and public safety departments, according to the Colorado Legislative Council Staff


The National Cannabis Industry Association

— which cited two national polls indicating most Americans were in favor of completely legalizing marijuana for adults and the overwhelming opposition to federal law enforcement intervention — was hoping to hold Trump to his campaign promise on marijuana, as he has made good on many of his other vows from the lead up to his historic White House win in November.

"As a candidate, President Trump said on many occasions that he believed marijuana policy – both medical and adult-use – should be left to the states," Smith's statement said. "When asked if he would allow his Attorney General to shut down adult-use programs like Colorado’s, he said, 'I wouldn’t do it – no…I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.'"

Smith's statement concluded: "Voters agree, and that should guide the administration’s policy."