The Trump administration is demonizing marijuana in an attempt to stop the growing legalization movement.
According to BuzzFeed News, a number of government departments have received orders to publicize pot's negative aspects while downplaying its benefits. One of the ringleaders is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime anti-marijuana crusader. He and other officials hope to discourage states from repealing bans on the recreational use of the herb, which is increasingly becoming recognized for its medicinal qualities.
President Trump's Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee recently directed 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration to come up with “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” concerning the drug, as well as pot's supposed “threats” to the country.
Committee members have spoken out against being told to slant their findings to satisfy the administration's agenda, releasing information that proves positive information about marijuana is being repressed. Panel members wrote in a memo following a July 27 meeting of department heads that “the prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided and inaccurate.”
The White House responded by doubling down on insisting that the committee ignore pot's upsides. “Departments should provide … the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends,” administration officials wrote.
Although Trump previously suggested he would support individual states' rights to make their own laws, his agency appointees now claim that marijuana legalization will lead to more widespread use of the drug. The officials warn that young people are particularly vulnerable to getting hooked on pot, despite evidence that the herb is not physically addictive.
The administration's goal is to reverse a trend in national polls that shows more Americans support ending marijuana restrictions. A summary of the July committee meeting stated: “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.”
Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told BuzzFeed News that “the Trump administration's policy-coordination process is an internal, deliberative process to craft the president’s policies on a number of important issues facing the American people, and ensure consistency with the president’s agenda.” The spokeswoman did not answer any of the news site's questions.
A review of committee documents revealed that the administration has shown no interest in pro-pot evidence from the eight states which have legalized the herb. Instead, officials told agencies and departments to “identify marijuana threats (and) issues created by state marijuana initiatives.” The White House asked each agency to submit a “story, relating an incident or picture, that illustrates one or more of the key areas of concern related to use, production and trafficking of marijuana.”
Among those criticizing the initiative is John Hudak of the Brookings Institution, who told BuzzFeed that it “is a terrible political move by the administration.” He described the biased collection of data as “policy malpractice,” pointing out that “the coordination of propaganda … is fairly unprecedented.”
Hudak continued: “This is a president who is not serious about states' rights and regulatory reform in areas like drug policy, and is not serious about telling the truth to the American people or members of Congress from his own party.”
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational weed, is sponsoring legislation that would prevent the federal government from overturning state laws regulating the drug. No one in his office responded when reporters asked for a comment on the committee's work.
Colorado state Rep. Jared Polis, a Democratic candidate for governor, blasted Trump for creating the committee after indicating that he backed Gardner's bill. “President Trump is flailing on marijuana policy, sometimes saying the states should decide, while also allowing the attorney general and other prohibition supporters in his purview to run amuck,” Polis declared. “If the White House is actually spreading misinformation about marijuana to undercut states' rights, it's appalling but not out of the ordinary for President Trump and his gang of prohibition supporters.”
The administration appears to be on the wrong side of public opinion. In a national poll Quinnipiac University conducted in April, 63 percent of respondents said they supported marijuana legalization.
Vox reported that “the war on marijuana … has cost the U.S. billions of dollars over decades; led to a black market for pot that criminal organizations use to fund violent operations; and contributed to the explosive growth of America's incarcerated population, which is now the largest in the world.” The news site pointed out that “millions of people still use marijuana — a drug that most Americans view as relatively safe.”
The Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocate more lax drug laws, have argued that legalization is the best way to thwart criminal operations and prevent otherwise law-abiding people from going to jail for minor pot offenses.