Federal Government Requests Patient Info on Medical Marijuana Patients, and States Don't Like It

The Trump administration has not been an ally for marijuana legalization so far. Both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump have made statements in the past advocating for a crackdown on cannabis even in states where it's legal. So when a White House office recently requested info about medical marijuana patients, you can understand why people would be hesitant.

According to the Huffington Post, at least eight states have been contacted by the federal government to turn over information about patients with medical marijuana prescriptions. The requests either came from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force or the National Marijuana Initiative (NMI), which is a branch of the task force. HIDTA is funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is colloquially referred to as the "drug czar."

The Huffington Post says, "The federal program is seeking data on the age, gender and medical condition of registered patients, as well as the number of medical marijuana cards issued each year and the reasons for their authorization." 

Officials who made the requests claim that their intentions are pure. They're simply trying to collect demographics information to help aid their research. But considering that many of the people involved in these task forces, such as the deputy of the NMI Dale Quigley, are anti-marijuana, and the overall attitude of the White House towards marijuana, states are somewhat pushing back on these information requests. California and Nevada turned over general demographic information while hiding specific information that could be used to identify medical marijuana patients.

A spokesperson from the NMI said that their office is not seeking specific patient information, and the general demographics being provided by the states are sufficient. He also affirmed that the HIDTA task force is not connected to a task force created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February to review federal enforcement policies against marijuana.

“The intent is to provide factual information about the consequences of medical marijuana, and we will provide this to general public via our website,” said the spokesperson.

However marijuana advocates argue that because these requests are coming from task forces with clear anti-marijuana agendas, they should not necessarily be trusted with what they say the will do with this information.

“The federal agency and task forces requesting this data have a long and dubious history of misleading the public about marijuana and advocating against state-level medical marijuana laws,” Mason Tvert, vice president of public relations and communications at VS Strategies, a firm that supported Colorado's marijuana legalization, told Huffington Post. “It is not surprising that the state officials who have been entrusted with administering these programs and protecting patients’ rights have some qualms about handing over their data.”

Remember when the Republican Party used to claim to be the party of states' rights? Those were the good ol' days, I guess.


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