A different kind of Reefer Madness is brewing in the White House, according to an explosive report from Buzzfeed News. Memos and emails obtained from Buzzfeed detail an underground Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee aimed at reversing the positive support cannabis has received in the public and trying to portray state legalization as a negative, national threat. The committee involves members from across the 14 federal agencies in the federal government, including the Drug Enforcement Agency.
“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” read one summary of a meeting between the White House and nine departments on July 27. “Departments should provide … the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends,” White House officials told federal agencies in a follow-memo.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ anti-marijuana views are known, but his Reefer Madness-style rhetoric has seemed in opposition to what Donald Trump has said in public forums. Trump has instead expressed support for the STATES Act, the bipartisan legislation that would protect states’ rights to legalize the adult use and sale of marijuana, which is sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), among others.
However, reports make it appear as if the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee is operating to collect negative information before revealing their findings to Trump. These reports also indicate a group disinterested in collecting objective findings about the impact of marijuana legalization on the nation, but rather data that will confirm their own biases.
“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,” says one meeting summary.
A meeting among the 14 different federal agencies was coordinated by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The meeting was held on July 27 and featured many of the biggest federal agencies, like the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, State, and Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.
Agencies were asked to submit to the White House a “two-page, bulleted fact sheets that identify marijuana threats and issues with the initiatives by Aug. 10.” In addition, departments were told to “identify marijuana threats; issues created by state marijuana initiatives; and consequences of use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.”
A spokesperson for the Education Department confirmed to Buzzfeed that they had turned their sheet in on time.
If true, the committee’s existence and their desire to intentionally change the narrative around cannabis could hold serious ramifications for the White House. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, who will be a gubernatorial candidate later this year, said the lack of cohesion on marijuana from Trump’s White House is appalling.
“Pres. 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. 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,” Polis said.