President-Elect Donald J. Trump has now appointed two individuals to his cabinet who are decidedly against the legalization of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes.
First up is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick for attorney general. Sessions has a strong record of opposing marijuana reform, saying just this past April during a legislative hearing that, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He added that Washington needed “grown-ups in charge,” who would be willing to assert that marijuana is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”
Then, Trump appointed Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to the post of Secretary of Health and Human Services. A consistently anti-marijuana politician, his position could afford him even greater control over whether the drug is available for medical purposes.
Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers will be watching closely over the next few months and years. It would be wise for those who are in the marijuana industry or who are weighing entering California’s recently-approved recreational marijuana market to consult with an attorney experienced in the complexity of cannabis law.
Although neither cabinet member has outright stated they will fight against legalization or the relaxed policies set by President Barack Obama, their voting history gives us some insight into their legislative philosophy.
Let’s start with Sessions. His comment this year judging the “goodness” of people by their marijuana use is, to say the least, problematic. Not only is it very out-of-sync with the attitudes of the rest of the country, it’s also not in line with what we all know to be true. Many of those who have been using the drug for years are people who are gravely ill with serious conditions like cancer, AIDS and seizures.
Despite Sessions’ characterization of the drug’s users, this is not a fringe issue. Sessions characterized as “one of Obama’s greatest failures” his lax policy on marijuana. Obama’s stance on this issue, Sessions reasoned, reversed almost two decades of drug policy. This is true. However, the so-called War on Drugs has not been won because it is unwinnable. If Obama made any real mistake, it was in not going further in pushing to reclassify the drug and in protecting those who who use it because now, any attorney general can step in and begin enforcing the law that is on the books. That means people could once again be facing jail time for engaging something that is legal in their state. The drug is still illegal under federal law.
Then there is Price, who is one of the most consistently anti-marijuana lawmakers in the legislature. Federal oversight of illicit drugs is in the purview of the U.S. Justice Department, but as HHS secretary, Price could hold some power to restrict its availability in states that have legalized it for both medicinal and recreational use. For example, he could start penalizing doctors or take legal action against sellers who work with medical marijuana.
Price has opposed even modest marijuana policy reforms in vote after vote after vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. He voted six times against amendments that would prevent the DOJ from interfering with state-level marijuana laws. He voted three times against bills that would have given Veterans Affairs doctors the ability to recommend medical marijuana to ailing veterans. He has earned a “D” grade on marijuana policy from NORML and Drug Policy Action.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Donald Trump adds another marijuana opponent to his Cabinet, Nov. 29, 2016, By Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post
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