America’s marijuana industry has enjoyed several years of unprecedented growth. Our current multibillion-dollar boom times could last well into the 2020s, cannabis sector experts and observers predict.
But economics follow cycles of boom-and-bust. There’s a crash coming at some point. The major question for the cannabis sector now is whether the anti-marijuana zealots soon to be in charge of the federal government will be its architects.
Most of the speculation has centered on Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, whose nomination advanced past a committee of Senate Republicans this week (who had to briefly suspend their own rules in order to do it, a phenomenon that’s not at all a frightening slippery slope).
If Sessions wanted to, he could use the Justice Department to disrupt recreational marijuana legalization and wreck certain state’s economies in the process.
That would be bad. Worse, in the long term, would be a pause or a reversal in science’s understanding of what marijuana does to the human brain and body.
As has been demonstrated several times in the two short weeks Trump and Co. have been in charge, this is a bad time for anyone who trucks in truth. Under Trump, the White House is dispensing to the American people easily refutable lies gussied up as “alternative facts.” Government scientists have been silenced by a far-reaching gag order. And right before our eyes, the official position of the United States on climate change, a phenomenon beyond dispute among the people who have spent their careers studying such things, is on its way towards hewing to an InfoWars-worthy conspiracy theory.
With Tom Price, the Georgia congressman whose nomination as Trump’s health secretary is also moving forward after a partisan Senate vote, cannabis science is at risk of falling down the same black hole.
We’re living at a watershed moment for cannabis science. Access to medical marijuana is spreading across the country far faster than data about what it does can be acquired. Scientists in other countries are making rapid advances in knowledge. In the U.S., even as the FDA and DEA rejected arguments that marijuana should be removed from the country’s list of the most harmful substances, both agencies signaled support for more research into the drug.
This is the time when, as Marijuana Politics reminded us this week, Donald Trump is handing over the keys to the country’s official medical research to “an anti-marijuana extremist.”
In contrast to Trump’s noted preference for putting amateurs or neophytes in charge of major government agencies when he’s not selecting bosses who stretch the meaning of anathema, Price has some bona fides.
The choice for America’s top health official who will run the world’s largest medical research arm is at least a medical doctor, even if he’s a medical doctor who belongs to a professional organization that questions vaccinations. But as Civilized pointed out when Price’s nomination was first announced, his record on drug policy reform is terrible.
In Congress, Price was a reliable anti-marijuana vote—even when the vote was a symbolic stand in a losing effort. Six times Price voted against limiting the Justice Department’s crusade against medical marijuana. He voted three times against allowing America’s military veterans access to marijuana through the Veterans Administration and also voted against the landmark budget amendment that froze Justice Department actions against state law-abiding marijuana businesses. He did vote to allow American farmers to grow hemp and supported efforts in red states to make high CBD, low THC cannabis oil available to kids with epilepsy—the only reasons why NORML gave Price a grade of “D” rather than “F.”
Which is to say he has done just about the minimum and is maybe not a total monster on this issue. That might be nice, as he’s a total monster on many other issues. Take reproductive rights. Price is a sworn enemy of Planned Parenthood and has backed plans to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
But about weed.
If the circular logic of the past continues, Sessions’ DEA will refuse rescheduling or any other fact-based adjustment on marijuana policy and point to a lack of research as the reason why. If Price the health secretary thinks the same of weed as Price the anti-marijuana congressman, studying marijuana and adding to the research will be ground to a halt, and progress will go nowhere.
Worse, skewed studies designed to show cannabis is harmful may get a green light. This administration has demonstrated no compunction against politics driving science, remember.
Under Tom Price, the Trump administration could severely harm cannabis in America without the Justice Department doing a thing.