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Political Analyst – Derek Thomas
At the beginning of Trump’s presidency there was incredible amounts of speculation and worry about the cabinet he had surrounded himself with and what the implications it might have on recreational and medical marijuana. He enlisted prohibitionist like Jeff Sessions to Attorney General and Tom Price to health and human services. We also had Chuck Rosenberg as the acting head of the DEA, another well-known prohibitionist. Sean Spicer added duel to the fire with vague promises of enforcement and crackdowns.
Over the last few months many of those fears have subsided as Trump’s circle have made miscalculations and missteps that have resulted in loss of leverage with Trump himself and an ever-eroding base of support.
From the outset, TECHNICAL420 wrote that Trump did not care enough about marijuana to pursue it – especially since his poll numbers are too low and too many people, including his supporters, are pro-marijuana. Soon after we saw congress pass legislation to ensure the DOJ did not have funding to pursue medical marijuana growers and dispensaries in states where it was legal.
Then came a one-two punch when the Russia investigation heated up. Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself, causing a spat with President Trump that almost saw the ousting of Jeff Sessions. Even to this day their relationship is not fully repaired as we constantly see Trump tweeting about the DOJ and their lack of pursuit of issues like Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Let us also not forget another important tell tale of Trump’s marijuana intentions: a complete lack of action. Besides words from his cabinet towards the beginning of his Presidency, we have seen no moves towards any type of federal enforcement.
But more recently marijuana supporters have been flooded with even more hopeful news.
Chuck Rosenberg recently resigned as head of the DEA. Rumors are swirling over why, most are convinced that it has something to do with loyalty to James Comey. Regardless of the reasons, Chuck Rosenberg was well known as a staunch marijuana prohibitionist and did not shy from making his opinion known.
Then, only a few days after Chuck’s resignation, Tom Price was forced to resign as well.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services resigned in shame after a scandal where he was essentially fraudulently charging tax-payers for personal travel. His first attempts to offer to rectify the situation by re-paying some of the money did not last as more and more instances of travel fraud came out. It only took about two days for Tom price to resign fully.
We are now in a position where 2 out of the 3 most powerful marijuana policy influencers at a national level have resigned.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services heads up the nation’s marijuana policy-making branch. Whereas the DEA enforces marijuana laws, HHS makes policy recommendations. It also oversees other agencies which play a role in the prohibition on cannabis, like the FDA.
For an example of what kind of influence these departments wield over marijuana policy, just look to last year when the federal government had the chance to reclassify marijuana last year, HHS was a major reason it didn’t happen. Cannabis is still listed as Schedule I on the federal Controlled Substances Act, alongside heroin and ecstasy. That’s because HHS effectively safeguards that classification and directs agencies, like the FDA, to make recommendations against rescheduling weed.
No appointments have been made yet for a new Secretary of Health and Human Services, and it will definitely be a big appointment to watch for.
Jeff Sessions has appointed an acting head of the DEA, Robert Patterson, but his opinion on marijuana is largely unknown. Patterson has been at the DEA since 1988. He began his career investigating RICO cases and has since been a key part of a DEA program fighting the rising opioid crisis in the United States.
So far, however, he hasn’t made any outrageously misinformed claims about cannabis. And that sets him apart, at least in a small way, from his predecessor.
And that’s good news for the millions of people who already have access to legal weed. The likelihood of a serious, coordinated federal crackdown is looking slimmer and slimmer.