Dan Quigley, the deputy coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative (NMI), a subset of the law enforcement wing of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, sent a request to Massachusetts health officials this week, asking for bundles of information about the state’s 40,000 medical marijuana patients.
According to a report from the Boston Globe, Quigley, a former Colorado cop who has never been shy about his opposition to cannabis legalization, sent similar requests to other medical marijuana-friendly states, causing significant fear about patient privacy and potential correlations to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threatened cannabis crackdown.
“We must protect patients’ anonymity and comfort in obtaining medical cannabis without feeling like they’re being watched,” Beth Collins, senior director of government relations and external affairs at Americans for Safe Access, told the Globe. “They’ll see this story and say, ‘oh, the feds are going to know I’m a patient,’ and stay away. It’s an access issue.”
Quigley has said that the data would not be used to identify patients, or fuel federal enforcement in states with medical regulations, and in turn the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has turned over information about the age and gender of the state’s medical marijuana patients, saying the data was public record. Still, the DPH has expressed concern over Quigley’s request for the qualifying conditions for the tens of thousands of Mass. residents, and has not yet turned over that information.
“Protecting patient privacy is a major consideration of our continued review,” a DPH representative said.
In accordance with those privacy concerns, all patient information sent to the NMI, past or future, will be anonymous. Additionally, DPH officials say they have “blurred” the statistics in an attempt to give Quigley and his cohorts as little personal data about the state’s medical marijuana users as possible.
Still Quigley, whose department reports directly to the White House, insists that cannabis advocates are worrying too much about what he calls “a routine research project.”
“There are no black helicopters warming up in the bullpen,” Quigley said. “I have no idea where this is going to take us yet.”
But without a clear plan for his research, or any actual academics, scientists or medical experts behind it, Quigley is going to have to do a little better than helicopter jokes if he’s going to convince anyone in the cannabis community.
“He’s obviously biased,” Collins said, “and if research isn’t done right, it can show whatever he wants it to show. Why isn’t a researcher doing it? That’s a red flag to me right away.”
And if you thought Quigley would try to appear neutral in his attempts to collect data and conduct research, you would be wrong. The former cop instead hinted at the possible goals of his research.
“I’ve not seen much good come out of legalization,” Quigley readily told reporters from The Globe. “When you make something that has no sense of risk or harm attached to it widely available, use rates are going to go up.”