Cannabis US As was announced recently, medicinal use of cannabis is likely to be made legal at federal level in the US in 2019. At almost the same moment, the government has set up an anti-cannabis committee. How can you reconcile these?
The assumption that Donald Trump might be a wheel of fortune in relation to cannabis policy has been confirmed over the last few months. On the one hand, the Trump government confirmed its anti-cannabis stance by secretly setting up an anti-weed committee in July. Its existence was not disclosed until the end of August, by the news portal Buzzfeed. On the other hand, there are more and more indications that legalisation of medicinal marijuana could see the light of day next year at federal level.
The Secret Committee – Reefer Madness 3.0
According to a report in Buzzfeed News, representatives of the US government decided back in July during a secret meeting to start a public campaign against cannabis, and to create an anti-cannabis committee for this purpose. This meant that on 27 July, various US authorities came together, including representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as well as the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health, to meet with members of the government, and following the meeting instructed their various administrations to present cannabis in a negative light in public.
They claimed this step was necessary because the image of cannabis in the US was partial, one-sided and inaccurate, according to a memo from the Trump administration about the meeting, which Buzzfeed published in September. The working group, referred to internally as the “Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee”, with the support of the departments involved should “provide… the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends”, says another memo.
In the meeting summary it says: “The members of the committee believe that if the administration is to turn the tide on increasing marijuana use there is an urgent need to highlight the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.”
Facts and information about positive factors and about the medicinal use of cannabis should, according to the working group, be ignored in US media reports. The 14 agencies involved have confirmed the existence of the committee to Buzzfeed. The Deputy Director of ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy), James Carroll, pointed out to Buzzfeed after the publication of the memo, in a letter dated 21 September that the “intent of the marijuana policy coordination committee is to collaborate at federal and state level to evaluate the fast changing markets for drugs. Carroll repeated several times that the committee was neither secret nor lacking in objectivity. The federal employees took a “completely objective” approach and “would seek all perspectives, whether positive or negative”. Carroll’s statement, however, fundamentally contradicts the notes from the meeting.
Difficult times for prohibitionists
It remains doubtful whether the DEA, ONDCP and other opponents of cannabis within the government can really change opinion with such old-fashioned state propaganda. The 65 percent support for legalisation at federal level speaks for itself. But the hardliners in Washington can abuse the one-sided data collected, and use them to take legal steps against those states where cannabis is already legal for recreational use. It would not be the first time.
The federal authorities already tried, back in 2015, to block legalisation in Washington DC, by threatening the mayor and city council members with preventive arrest if they implemented the result of a legislative ballot and legalised cannabis in their city state. In the end, the city council and mayor were able to defeat the federal authorities – since mid-2015 cannabis has been legal in Washington DC.
The reintroduction of measures such as this would also contradict a document that Trump signed in June. In the “STATES Act” that came into force just a few months ago, the federal government hands over the regulation of cannabis, among many other things, to the will of the people in each individual state and promises not to interfere.
Trump says to Dana Rohrabacher that medicinal cannabis will be passed
The Republican delegate to the House of Representatives is one of the few federal politicians who has fought for the legalisation of cannabis at federal level for many years. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment initiated by him and the Democratic delegate Samuel Sharon Farr, in 2014 cut off further funds to the DEA to go after medicinal marijuana programmes in individual States. Prior to that, Rohrabacher had failed to get this through Congress six times since 2003.
Rohrabacher told Fox Business in mid-October, that his colleague and friend Trump had recently given him a go-ahead for the federal, legal use of medicinal cannabis, and therefore a transfer from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the US Controlled Substances Act. This expected step by the President – not only expected by Rohrabacher – would provide the numerous producers of medicinal cannabis with the legal basis they currently lack, and doubtless turn the US overnight into the world’s largest legal supplier of medicinal cannabis. The infrastructure for this is already in place, but because of the legal situation can so far only be used to sell within an individual state within the US. Rohrabacher confirmed that progress might be possible as early as the spring of next year.
Donald Trump has never spoken out in favour of legalising cannabis. On the other hand, three years prior to the “STATES Act”” he confirmed that if he were to win the election, he would like to place cannabis policy in the hands of the individual states, and would be open to legal regulation of the medical use of hemp.
The problem’s name is Jeff Sessions
The real cannabis opponent in Washington appears not to be Trump, but his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. During his period in office he has time and again caused the industry great concern with strong anti-cannabis statements. But observers are assuming that Trump is likely to part company soon with his Attorney General, who he has been wrestling with for several months, and to replace him with a moderate. That would clear the way for federal legalisation of medicinal cannabis.