Trump’s War on Weed Will Boost Big Pharma, Private Prisons and Mexican Drug Cartels

Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In a press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration believes there’s “a big difference” between medical and recreational marijuana. He noted that while medical cannabis laws are nominally protected by Congress (which in 2004 banned the Feds from spending money to interfere with state laws), recreational cannabis enjoys no such federal protection. And so he pointed to a coming crackdown, saying there will be “greater enforcement” of federal cannabis prohibition in states that have voted to legalize.

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people [to use marijuana recreationally]…” Spicer told the press, “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it.”

This rationale, however, flies in the face of multiple studies showing definitively that the supposed gateway theory—which claims marijuana leads to use of harder drugs—is, basically, bullshit, and that legal access to cannabis actually greatly reduces opioid addiction rates.

A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” While a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found opioid overdose rates are 25% lower in states with legal cannabis access, and “such laws were associated with a lower rate of overdose mortality that generally strengthened over time.” Other studies have reached the same conclusion—that cannabis laws can actually play a huge role in combating the opioid crisis in America by providing a far safer alternative to heroin and prescription drugs like Oxycontin.

So we are left with two—and only two—distinct possibilities:

    1) The Trump Administration, led by rabidly anti-marijuana politicians like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, plans to crack down on legal cannabis, overriding the votes of millions of Americans and deepening the very serious problem of opioid abuse, because they don’t understand basic facts about marijuana.

    2) The Trump Administration understands these facts, and will crack down on legal weed anyway.

So where does that leave the President’s many supporters who also support legal cannabis? A new Quinnipiac poll released on the same day as Spicer’s comments showed 71 percent of all Americans—and 55% of Republicans—oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. Many Trump voters also voted for cannabis legalization in November. And the President’s support is actually highest in the communities (largely white, rural and poor) that have been hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.

But why would Trump and his team enact a policy that will hurt his own supporters?

When investigating a crime, detectives typically begin by asking Cui bono?—a latin phrase that translates as Who Benefits? In this case, that’s easy to answer—Big Pharma, private prisons, and Mexican drug cartels. More marijuana enforcement will lead to greater profits for all three.

Tellingly, on the same day as Spicer’s comments, Attorney General Sessions ended an Obama-era policy directing the Justice Department to phase out the use of private prisons. Private prisons, which profit off the War on Weed, have been huge donors to pro-Trump groups, and two of Sessions’s former aides now lobby for the private prison industry.

The pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, which spends billions on lobbying and has close ties to Trump, sees legal cannabis as a huge threat to their bottom line, as Americans increasingly choose cannabis over prescription pills. So they’re all for cracking down, with the added benefit that having the government focus on marijuana enforcement as the answer to opioid addiction protects Big Pharma from scrutiny of their own role in getting the nation hooked on dangerous, addictive, often deadly pills.

And finally, this is all great news for the Mexican drug cartels, which have been steadily losing their share of the American marijuana market since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize in 2012. Any decrease in legal US cannabis sales will benefit them directly by pushing those sales back into the black market, thus making for more violence and drug-running coming into the United States and providing a rationale for Trump’s larger anti-immigration policies.

So, to sum up, if you smoke weed, and you voted Trump, it’s pretty clear that your best interests take a back seat to the profit motives of prescription pill pushers, private prisons and criminal gangs from South of the Border. Which might further help explain how a candidate who railed against Wall Street turned into a President who just put six former Goldman Sachs executives in charge of the economy….

Follow the money, ask who benefits, and from there, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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