President Donald Trump always keeps us guessing, God bless him. In June, he made the offhand comment that he would “probably end up supporting” a bipartisan bill that would protect states where the recreational use of cannabis for adults has been legalized from federal prosecution. The press lost its collective mind and rushed to call him “Marijuana's Great Savior” (I'm looking at you, Forbes), ignoring the long trail of bullshit in his wake, and the fact that he's been making little personal stabs at Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who's hatred of cannabis has become legendary) for months.
I would have enjoyed being wrong about it, though. I find it perversely appealing to consider the possibility of Trump being the one to finally remove cannabis prohibition. Another vote for weird, obviously. But it still seems doubtful to me. And a recent revelation from Buzzfeed News might confirm my current dalliance with cynicism.
According to White House memos, a secret anti-cannabis committee was formed to battle the increasingly positive view of cannabis taken by the majority of Americans. According to the report, the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee asked 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” associated with cannabis legalization. This reportedly followed a closed-doors meeting between the committee and the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and a number of other agencies in July. The committee instructed departments to “identify marijuana threats; issues created by state marijuana initiatives; and consequences of use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.”
It should be noted that general data related to cannabis was not expressly requested, only data that supported “negative trends” and anecdotal information. For instance, agencies were tasked with telling 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.”
Which reminded me of the time President Richard Nixon commissioned a report on cannabis to decide its proper placement on the list of scheduled drugs in accordance with the freshly minted Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (referred to as the Shafer Commission after Gov. Raymond Shafer) studied cannabis for two solid years before concluding that it wasn't physically addictive, didn't seem to cause any physiological harm and wasn't a gateway drug.
Shafer gave the president his report and recommended ending the cannabis ban right then and there, but Nixon wasn't interested in science that went against his policy. So the report was thrown on the rubbish heap and we entered a new Dark Age.
The Trump Administration clearly learned Nixon's lesson. They won't even pretend to want objective information.
Meanwhile, a recent Quinnipiac University Poll found that 63 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis and a whopping 93 percent support the medical use of the drug. More importantly in this instance, 70 percent said the federal government should stay out of states where it's been legalized and mind their own damn business.
Which unsurprisingly puts the administration at odds with the public on this one. But let's get back to that weird comment about how Trump will “probably end up supporting” pro-cannabis legislation—a sentiment that has yet to be reversed publicly by the president. Despite my distrust, I still have to wonder why his administration is acting in contradiction to his stated policies.
And there's something that bugs me about the requests for negative “stories.” Come, dear reader, and think way back to the dizzying heyday of Trump smack talk in 2017. There was a story going around about National Security Council officials sprinkling Trump's name throughout memos to keep the most powerful man on Earth from getting distracted.
Yes. Reuters reported last year that according to unnamed officials close to the president, Trump preferred single page memos with lots of pictures and a healthy amount of his own name “because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.”
What if Trump is completely clueless about everything? What if his famous policy turnarounds are actually the result of brightly-colored memos written with a convincing amount of gusto and illustrated with pictures of his face 'shopped onto the bodes of semi-nude models?
Trump probably doesn't know a thing about cannabis other than what he hears from his advisers and “Fox and Friends.” And that really makes me worry about the quality of these stories the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee were asking for. How many “Trumps” did they use?
When asked about the committee's existence, Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told BuzzFeed it was part of the administration's “policy coordination process,” but refused to discuss it further. She didn't deny the existence of the previously secret group, however.