The Trump Administration has secretly established a committee of federal agencies to investigate the most effective anti-cannabis messaging and to undermine recent trends towards cannabis legalization, according to a BuzzFeed News report.
The committee is called the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee and is comprised of 14 federal agencies plus the Drug Enforcement Administration; the group will reportedly be used to brief President Trump on “marijuana threats.”
During a July 27 meeting between White House officials and the departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, the committee ironically proclaimed that “the prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate.” (The irony stems from the history of disinformation & negative propaganda that has been spread about cannabis.) White House officials tasked each agency with submitting “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” related to legalization. Notably, there was zero mention of discussing or even considering any of the positive arguments for cannabis reform.
“Staff believe that if the administration is to turn the tide on increasing marijuana use there is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.” — Excerpt of summary from July 27 White House meeting obtained by BuzzFeed News
The White House wouldn’t comment on the committee’s policy-making process, but spokespeople from multiple agencies wouldn’t deny the committee’s existence.
“The Trump Administration’s policy coordination process is an internal, deliberative process to craft the President’s policies on a number of important issues facing the American people, and ensure consistency with the President’s agenda.” — Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters, via BuzzFeed News
Unsurprisingly, cannabis advocates have condemned the committee.
“To see this White House — that cannot even coordinate an adequate response to the overdose crisis – waste so much time on discussions on how to push anti-marijuana legalization propaganda is mind-boggling, and underscores this Administration’s ineptitude on drug policy.” — Michael Collins, Deputy Director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, via The Hill
On the 2016 presidential campaign trail, then-candidate Trump said that, while he was not in favor of cannabis legalization, he would, if elected, honor states’ rights to determine their own path on the issue. Earlier this year, President Trump appeared to double down on that stance when he reached an agreement with Colorado Sen. Cory Gardener (R) to support legislation protecting legalized states from federal enforcement.
In February 2017, however, there was talk by then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer about “greater enforcement” of cannabis prohibition in legalized states. Furthermore, Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who was one of the President Trump’s earliest appointments — rescinded what few federal protections there were for the cannabis industry in January and has requested that Congress remove restrictions on the Justice Department that block it from actively pursuing state-legal cannabis businesses.
Given that public support for cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, it seems doubtful that a committee will be able to do much to prevent the rapid growth of industries in legalized states. The fact that the committee exists, however, suggests that the Trump Administration is unlikely to engage in discussions of federal cannabis reform any time in the near future.
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