The Trump Administration has compiled a secretive group of federal officials tasked with presenting cannabis as a threat to American health and security.
First uncovered by investigators at BuzzFeed News, the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee consists of 14 different federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, DEA, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the State Department.
The committee formed earlier this summer, and met for the first time on July 27th, at which point public records indicate that leaders from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) rebuked America’s move towards legalization, and referenced an administration goal to “turn the tide” on pot use.
“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” a summary of the late July meeting details, according to BuzzFeed News. “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,”
It is still unclear what the group’s end goal is, and how they will get there, but in a memo sent to participating agencies after the July 27th meeting, White House officials put out a call for research, data, and anecdotal stories that would portray pot in a strictly negative light.
“Departments should provide… the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends,” the memo read. The same document instructed agencies to detail a “story, relating an incident or picture, that illustrates one or more the key areas of concern related to use, production, and trafficking of marijuana.”
When Trump first took office in 2017, America’s collective cannabis industry immediately moved to the edge of its seat. Despite statements promising to leave legalization up to states, Trump’s fundamental lack of knowledge about marijuana, and policy reform in general, paired with his selection of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General spelled trouble.
Over the past year and a half, though, while the president has essentially ignored the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic and repeatedly pushed narcotic fears to rally anti-immigration policies, the Trump administration has largely remained hands-off when it comes to pot. In April, however, Trump said that he would support protecting state-level legalization from federal injunction, prompted by pro-legalization Republican Colorado Senator Cory Gardner.
But with the White House’s Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee now public record, it appears that Trump has abandoned that promise, and is now looking to wholly discredit America’s green rush without taking into account cannabis reform’s social justice advances, medical benefits, economic boom, and more. Currently, more than 149,000 Americans work in the legal weed industry.
Despite repeated request for comment from BuzzFeed News reporters, individual agency officials refused to divulge any information, instead pointing to the ONDCP, who also refused to comment on any specific committee details.
In a response to the committee’s one-sided reach for negative cannabis information, Justin Strekal, the Political Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), called the White House coalition a sign of prohibition’s sinking ship.
“These are the death rattles of marijuana prohibition,” Strekal said in a press release. “Those who seek to maintain the oppressive policies of cannabis criminalization are grasping at straws in their effort to undo the public policy progresses that have now been enacted in a majority of states, and that are widely supported by voters of both major political parties.”
As far as the American public is concerned, the Trump administration is spitting in the wind. According to recent national polls, more than 60% of U.S. adults across all demographic backgrounds support cannabis legalization.
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