On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump boasted of his support of medical marijuana. But the recent appointment of House Representative Tom Price (R-Georgia) to cabinet suggests that his enthusiasm for cannabis reform has cooled off since winning the election.
Price will serve as Health and Human Services secretary - a position that has some say over the legality of cannabis. Right now, medical marijuana is legal in 29 American states, but it remains federally prohibited. In fact, the federal government lists marijuana along with heroin as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) - meaning that cannabis is a dangerous, highly addictive substance with no medical value in the eyes of the government.
That could've changed last summer when the DEA had the chance to reschedule cannabis. But DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg doubled down on prohibition, citing the Department of Health and Human Services' position on cannabis to justify maintaining the status quo.
"The HHS concluded that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision," Rosenberg wrote in a letter outlining his decision on the issue.
Price gets a 'D' grade on marijuana policy
That position won't likely change under Price, who received a 'D' when NORML - the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - recently graded each member of Congress on the cannabis issue. Price's record includes repeatedly voting against congressional measures to prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with state-legalized medical and recreational marijuana industries. Without those, it would be open season on marijuana growers, retailers and even patients in states like California and New York.
Price has also repeatedly voted against measures that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana for vets.
In contrast, Price has supported measures to prevent the DOJ from interfering with states that have legalized CBD - a non-psychoactive cannabis extract used for treating conditions like epilepsy. And he voted in favor of allowing researchers to study industrial uses for hemp. So he's not 100 percent against cannabis - just 93 percent or so.
Perhaps the most worrying part of the appointment is the reaction from prohibition activists like Kevin Sabet - founder of the deceptively titled anti-cannabis group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Sabet told Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post that Trump's decision to tap Price was "encouraging."
“HHS plays a big role in drug prevention and I think that what we need is more awareness and prevention around marijuana,” Sabet added.
Price joins a cabinet that includes fellow marijuana opponent Jeff Sessions - Trump's pick for attorney general - who will oversee how America enforces laws like federal cannabis prohibition. So the gains made by marijuana activists during the Obama Administration are very much in danger of rolling back.
Banner image: wikipedia.org