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Trump FDA, US Attorney Moves Could Shift Cannabis Landscape

March 10, 2017
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Donald Trump's nominee to head the FDA, left, and Safeway President and CEO Steve Byrd listen to testimony on Capitol Hill in 2009 during the Senate Health Committee's health care roundtable. (Harry Hamburg/AP)
President Donald Trump sent rumbles across the federal cannabis landscape with a pair of moves made late Friday, picking pharmaceutical industry insider Scott Gottlieb to lead the Food and Drug Administration and ordering the 46 remaining Obama-era US attorneys to leave their posts immediately.

Both acts have the potential to shape the national cannabis industry, both for medical patients and adult-use consumers. The appointment of Gottlieb, an FDA official under President George W. Bush, could ensure that any moves on medical cannabis continue along a traditional, pharmaceutical-minded trajectory—which to most patients has felt like stagnation. The replacement of 46 US attorneys, on the other hand, could reshuffle federal law enforcement priorities in states across the country.

Let’s start with Gottlieb. He’s one guy, so it’s easier.

In terms of cannabis, he sounds a lot like the status quo.

According to the New York Times, Gottlieb’s nomination to lead the FDA cheered the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, members of whom had expressed concern that Trump’s other rumored picks held radical views. Perhaps no surprise: Gottlieb is an industry insider himself, having served as a consultant or board member for several companies, including GlaxoSmithKline. Between 2013 and 2015 he raked in $400,000 in payments from pharmaceutical companies alone. He’s a partner at a venture capital fund that focuses on health care investments, and he holds a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Related

White House Plans ‘Greater Enforcement’ Against Legal Cannabis

In terms of cannabis, he sounds a lot like the status quo—especially when you consider that a little more than a year ago, President Barack Obama nominated for the job Robert Califf, who inspired headlines like “Anti-Cannabis, Big Pharma Companies Tied to FDA Nominee.”

There’s not much out there on what Gottlieb himself thinks of cannabis. Over the years he’s tweeted links to links studies or news items, but none appears to include any personal reaction. The tweets paint a picture of someone who has been aware—albeit skeptical—of the rise of cannabis as medicine.

Gottlieb’s control over cannabis would primarily be confined to a regulatory role. To the degree that cannabis-derived products exist as federally approved medicines, dealing with it is the FDA’s job. The group also sometimes provides medical briefings to other agencies that deal with cannabis, like the DEA.

Related

FDA Weighs in on Rescheduling Cannabis

So far the agency hasn’t approved cannabis as a medicine—“untested drugs,” it explains, “can have unknown consequences”—although it has approved two similar drugs that have been synthesized in labs. It’s likely we’ll see more of the FDA’s slow, molecule-by-molecule approach under Gottlieb, even though Trump has promised to slash many agency regulations, which he’s criticized as overly burdensome.

US Attorneys Set Prosecution Priorities

Trump’s intended replacement of 46 US attorneys poses a bigger existential threat to cannabis in legal states. While individual US attorneys set law enforcement priorities within their respective districts, they take direction from top Department of Justice brass. When US Attorney Jeff Sessions—or Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer—talks about the administration stepping up enforcement against state-legal cannabis markets, the prosecutors who would file those cases take orders from US attorneys in 93 jurisdictions around the country.

Related

Yes, Jeff Sessions Could Use RICO. No, It Wouldn’t End Legal Cannabis

While replacing US attorneys, even on such a massive scale, is a fairly common move for an incoming president—Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush dismissed nearly all US attorneys upon taking office—it nevertheless represents a significant shift in the cast of characters setting prosecutorial goals across the US. For cannabis, that can be cause for concern. State-legal systems are quickly becoming multibillion-dollar industries. And one thing that can put any industry on edge is uncertainty.

 

Leafly will continue to track these issues as they develop.

Ben Adlin's Bio Image

Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a senior editor at Leafly who specializes in politics and the law. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • Sergio Farias

    They seriously need to leave it to the states.

    • baddog

      You’re dreaming if you think that’ll happen. This administration is blatantly open to it’s own corruption and the fact it cares zero about the average American and right and wrong.

  • distachio

    Is there anything Trump DIDN’T lie through his teeth about while he was campaigning?

    • lovingc

      no

    • Fun Please

      Could you be more specific? If he said wall, and no wall, which do you prefer? I take it you are not a Trump voter, but you could be… Because no wall?

      • BDH

        All Drumpf supporters are traitors! to both the cannabis movement and the united states. How could anyone ever support anything this jackass stands for. Muslim bans, healthcare rollbacks, lies lies and more lies. He destroyed the state department so he could make his butt buddy Putin happy. He sold out the US to russia and you all have been conned by a mentally ill douchebag! God Damned Kleptocrat!

        • D’Harry Southwood

          Stop listening to the fake bs the dems are putting out. And just because you are a dumb-pothead, don’t blame the people who voted for Trump for your ignorance. You were prepared to vote a corrupt woman into power who absolutely had no intention of doing ANYTHING she promised, except to enrich herself. Typical politician, lie to make sheeple vote for you, afterwards laugh their gullibility.

          • distachio

            Oh the irony.

            How do you know that poster is a Democrat or who he “was prepared” to voted for? There are more Independent voters than Democrats and Republicans COMBINED.1/2 of registered voters were too morally disgusted with the choices to even vote at all, and yes, they have a right to complain — more than people who did vote, in fact. They have no blood on their hands.

          • D’Harry Southwood

            I know the poster is a democrap supporter, because he /she uses the same bs language the dumcrats are pushing through the main media. Someone who listens to other dumbcrats, and then, emotionally and not rationally, repeatedly spouts off without actually observing what is happening around him. Look at the DOWJONES index, and see the optimism that was created in the business world. You know, the people who actually makes the money for government to take and spent on social handouts?

          • BDH

            Sorry I’m an independent. All I want to do is smoke a joint at my gay Muslims wedding while cross dressing and no one respects my choices. Lol but seriously I’m only about freedom. Watching Drumpf and his biggot cronies try to ban Muslims hurt the elderly threw health care. Makes me sick sorry but I’ll never support an authoritarian regime. As for Cannabis it saved my life. I’m living proof it heals. And for all those hate replies. Especially @FrakPlease your all uneducated treasonous racists by Association! You will not be viewed any other way by the rest of the world.

          • BDH

            Thank you. And you are right. I am an independent I didn’t like either choice. The world’s in a bad place now I’m not sure we would have been any better off with Hillary. Unfortunately Bernie would have made a great president. Next time VERMIN SUPREME 2020!!! A pony for everyone!!!!!

          • BDH

            First off no I didn’t vote for Hillary. Why does everyone assume if you hate Drumpf you voted for Hillary. If you watch any media you know the Russian connection is real. Just look at what they did to the state house. Second as for a dumb pot head. I run my own tech company and we are expanding at the end of the quarter. I hold a masters in business also. I stick to the format of putting blame on both Drumpf and his supporters for selling us out to Russia. If you can’t connect the dots then maybe it’s you who is dumb mabie you could use some cannabis yourself. It might get you focused enough to see the corruption going on. I bet you believe all those lies Drumpf and his cronies spout. I bet you believe obama wire tapped drumpfs microwaves. lol If you cant you sure are going to be surprised when the hammer comes down on them. People like you who just go around assuming people’s political preferences are the dumb ones.

      • distachio

        He promised a wall that Mexico would pay for. Then he said that taxpayers would pay for the wall but Mexico would pay for it later. THEN he said that Mexico would pay for it via tariffs on imported goods, which the American people will end up paying for anyway because prices on those goods will go up.

        Trump said he was going to “drain the swamp” of special interests and then he went and appointed people like Mr. Up-to-his-Eyeballs-in-Big-Pharma-Interests Gottlieb to head the notoriously corrupt FDA. He said he supported the states’ right to legalize cannabis use, and then he appointed the aggressively anti-cannabis Jeff Sessions.

        Trump said he was going to pursue the prosecution of Hillary Clinton and have her “locked up,” but as soon as he was elected, he didn’t care about that anymore, and SAID so to a crowd of supporters.

        That’s just the tip of the iceberg. He sold his supporters a bill of goods, and they bought it hook, line, and sinker.

        • Fun Please

          I get it – you were able to keep yer plan, and Bill did not have sex with that woman, and the CGI isn’t a corrupt influence peddling RICO operation. Right. And you didn’t answer the question. Perfect

          • distachio

            You get nothing.

            *I* am one of those people who looked forward to seeing HRC prosecuted AND IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. Do you get it now? I detest criminal Hillary Clinton and her sleazebag criminal husband, and wouldn’t have voted for her if my life depended on it.

            In the OP, I asked if there was anything Trump didn’t lie about when he was campaigning. YOU asked me to be more specific and something about “wall or not wall; which is it?” (as if the issue of WHO WOULD PAY FOR IT was not the most important part of the equation); I gave you four solid examples of flip-flops, deflections, and downright LIES from Trump’s campaign…and you have the nerve to accuse me of 1) not answering the question, and 2) being a dogma-spouting “progressive.”

          • Fun Please

            I get yer an idiot. I asked you a simple question, and get a ranting hypocritical diatribe that doesn’t answer the question. Perfect. I said nothing about dogma, or progressive.
            You are, however, an angry emotional idiot.
            Got it.

          • August Williams

            Just cuz he don’t like the answer does it mean he didn’t answer the question. Not surprised to see you probably don’t use marijuana you can’t get the joint the light with your head so far up your ass

    • D’Harry Southwood

      What is it with dumbasses who blames Trump for everything? Wake up and smell the coffee! Let’s wait and see what this admin does about regulation. I expect to be pleasantly surprised about the reduction in ALL regulation. TrumpHaters: the people voted, get over it, he is the president,

      • distachio

        Don’t hold your breath.

        Yes, Trump is President, and instead of “draining the swamp” AS HE PROMISED HE WOULD, he appointed yet another big-pharma executive, with major financial interests in promoting pharmaceuticals and eliminating competition to those interests, to head the corrupt, back-room-dealing FDA, which has ALWAYS been headed by such people. Why couldn’t he have appointed, say, a medical doctor with expertise in pharmacology, but no financial stakes involved, for the position? Between this guy and Jeff “Good People Don’t Smoke Marijuana and It Should NEVER Be Descheduled” Sessions, the chances of any kind of relaxation of the Federal regulations on Cannabis happening during a Trump Administration are shrinking rapidly.

      • Mike

        Yeah, the people voted and about 3 million more voted for Clinton than Trump. He has no mandate but is acting like a little dictator who is using the government to further enrich himself. No, I will not “get over it”.

      • max’s pad

        It’s now August and he has proven himself to be a liar, sociopath and as of yesterday he has allied himself loosely with neo nazis and white supremacists. What was it about dumbasses who didn’t look at his previous 40 years of outlandish elitism, racism, mafia associations and other tomfoolery. Oh, I forgot, he is also now taking us to the edge of Nuclear exchange with No. Korea with another madman.

    • D wise

      Lets see not long ago it was all bush
      grow up

      • distachio

        Well of course it was all Bush then; Bush was President.
        And when Obama was President, it was all him.
        Trump is President now. He’s holding the bag, so he gets the credit — and the blame.

        • D wise

          why are afraid to use your real name,ashamed maybe?

          • distachio

            Straw man question, considering you don’t use yours. What — you mean “D wise” is your REAL name and not at least an abbreviation meant to give you some privacy?

            If this page used a Facebook plugin instead of Disqus, you’d see my full name. But it doesn’t, and so you don’t, just as I don’t see yours.

    • D wise

      I bet you just loved the clown with bozo ears he did a lot for us didn’t he
      The pot thing would not be an issue if obama has kept his promise
      His rules, good for him not for you.
      He could have made a difference he decides to fill his pockets instead

      • distachio

        No I did NOT love “the clown with Bozo ears.” He wouldn’t and couldn’t have made a difference. He worked for the same masters as his predecessors.

        Let’s get one thing straight. I am a LIBERTARIAN who voted for Dr. Ron Paul in the previous election. I would have voted for Gary Johnson in the last one if I thought he had a chance in hell of winning.

        In fact, I held my nose and voted for Trump because, despite the fact that I think he is an absolute idiot, I naively hoped he would — as he promised — surround himself with people who would help him dismantle the special-interest-controlled Washington regulation and deal-making machine. Instead, between his moronic drunk-tweets from the can at 5 a.m., he’s filled his cabinet with nothing but corporate billionaire cronies who will simply regulate themselves into more wealth for themselves (the way the bankers did when the banks were “deregulated,” lol), wants to increase the power of the already highly corrupt and racist, militarized police forces, and appointed not one but TWO enemies of the cannabis movement to positions of power in his administration.

        ETA: So now it appears that this doctor has actually prescribed cannabis for pain management in ten cases. I’m very happy to be wrong about him…Let’s hope that bodes well for the medical cannabis movement.

      • distachio

        Let’s get one thing straight. I am a LIBERTARIAN who voted for Dr. Ron Paul in the previous election. I would have voted for Gary Johnson in the last one if I thought he had a chance in hell of winning.
        In fact, I held my nose and voted for Trump because, despite the fact that I think he is an absolute idiot, I naively hoped he would — as he promised — surround himself with people who would help him dismantle the special-interest-controlled Washington regulation and deal-making machine. Instead, between his nonsense tweets from the throne at 5 a.m., he’s filled his cabinet with nothing but corporate billionaires who will simply regulate themselves into more wealth for themselves (the way the bankers did when the banks were “deregulated,” lol), plans to increase the power of the already highly corrupt, militarized police forces, and appointed not one but TWO enemies of the cannabis movement to positions of power in his administration.

        • max’s pad

          Holding your nose may have cut the blood flow to the reasoning part of your brain. Even at the convention, his supporters were hate filled anti immigration, racist, militaristic authoritarians.
          I have seen some Ideas from libertarians, conservatives, liberals, socialists, etc which is why I have NEVER identified as a member of any party. Once you choose a side, human nature makes you less likely to be open minder and more likely to support the ones on your side even when they are stupid or evil.

          • distachio

            BS. Just because one embraces a particular ideology doesn’t mean they don’t reject ideas or people who represent the worst of it. I think I made it obvious that I regret my Trump vote to the depths of my being; even more so than when I wrote that response some FIVE months ago. I was responding to someone who assumed that because I criticized Trump that it automatically made me a Hillary supporter when that is demonstrably untrue.

  • Neil Samra

    Lies,lies and more lies is all we have gotten from that asshole Trump and Sesions and Spicer! State rights are part of what makes this Country great so LEAVE IT UP TO THE PEOPLE!! You people that voted for this President,already the worst in history in my opinion, you people should really be ashamed of yourself for letting this compulsive liar and cheater trick you into voting for him but honestly we all truly know Trump didn’t win that election,oh what $ and plotting with are worst enemy V.Putin, can do for you 😈🐍🐍! WHY DO YOU DOUBT THAT CANNABIS IS THE BEST MEDICATION FOR SO MANY AILMENTS❗ Quit denying the truth and honestly what medicinal properties does cigarettes and ALCOHOL have❓❓❓✔ This is getting so tiresome, just legalize the magical plant or just let the States decide like when Obama was in office,damn I really people are now realizing just how great Obama was! LIBERATE CANNABIS🗽💨💯

  • TOPDOG1

    NOBODY NEEDS THE F.D.A…..The F.D.A. is a W.W.-2 dinosaur a throwback to the cold war era. and also very obsolete.It needs to go away somewhere and die or “at least’ be reformed and modernized. They are only getting in everyone’s way. We don’t need the F.D.A. Any civilian organization could do a far better job.The little good they do has become massively overshadowed by misuse of power and unimaginable incompetence. You don’t need the F.D.A. This obsolete organization is directly responsible for the proliferation of counterfeit and dangerous processed food items mislabeled and forced onto the public. Much of which (sterilized and pastured) is no longer actually even food, but instead are counterfeit food by-products that are dangerous and not fit for even animals nor do they qualify as food. I don’t need the F.D.A. They have shown themselves nothing more than an arm of the pharmaceutical and food industry.Nobody needs the F.D.A. They should retain a position as an advisory and research position only with no enforcement power at all. Nor should they be allowed to make or have any power or controls to make laws. They are also responsible for the proliferation of processed foods that have killed more people than all the terrorist acts worldwide combined with several world wars.This entire operation should be placed in private enterprise’s hands who could do a much, much better job and do it at a profit for the American citizen..Those in the food industry deserve very long prison sentences as well as the accomplices within the F.D.A.

    • max’s pad

      I disagree, but we need to stop having politicians telling scientists what to do. In an enlightened country, politicians would heed scientists in all fields. Political sci., Chemistry, physics, climatology, medicine would all be better for us than flim flam men from all political spectrums. Admistrator types could then influence degree of policy but not dictate or reverse reality like a Sessions or a Trump, neither of which has their head screwed on very tight.

      • TOPDOG1

        PLEASE DEMAND F.D.A. and D.E.A. REFORM.
        These idiots will say or do anything to cover their own incompetency and support their failed drug war. More than ever people are beginning to realize what science has known all along. T.H.C is actually a major nutrient. like vitamins C.D. or A. Our endocannabinoid system Is designed for the utilization of cannabis (smoking not recommended). Also; many of the disease’s that respond to cannibals is because they were caused by Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) A science the D.E.A. has suppressed for decades. T.H.C. is the nutrient required and used by our body to regulate pain, stop cancer replication and very many other vital and critical uses as well. Also for our psychoactive requirements..

  • familyguy

    Trump has declared war on cannabis. Fascism is the law of the land. Its time to fight!

  • familyguy

    America has lost it democracy. Fascism has taken over.

    • D’Harry Southwood

      Absolutely the exact opposite. We escaped fascism. Go look up what fascism is and what socialism does to country. Wake UP! Stop blindly mouthing off like a worn out prostitute doing bj for crack. You repeat the same bs the media feeds you. Judge for yourself according tot he real facts, not bs. Judge what is happening, not what you are told is NOT happening

      • Bill Weber

        more police is more like fasism and that is what trump is doing.

        • D’Harry Southwood

          Fascism is forcing people to do what YOU want them to do, not allowing people to freely make their own choice. If you refer to the increase in Border patrol agents, may I point out they are not “police”, if they were, then normal sheriffs and police should assist in arrest criminals entering the country illegally, which they are being ordered not to. How is that for fascism? Elected officials ordering law enforcement agencies NOT to enforce the law?

  • Token

    Did you do any research? The guy is a pain doctor WHO PRESCRIBES marijuana! He has sung its praises on it effects for neuropathic pain.

    • distachio

      If this is the case, that’s encouraging.

      On the other hand, will he support heavy regulation and taxation on people’s ability to cultivate a PLANT?

  • max’s pad

    Voting Counts. For all those who voted for trump because he would end big government and stop intruding on personal and state’s rights, SURPISE, he lied and now for those of you in the red states who medically need or even enjoy it over booze for relaxation, Maybe next time you won’t fall for a con man sociopath who loves to tell everyone else what they can and cannot do.
    You may have got what you deserve, but i sure as heck didn’t like having this buffoon, who is only older than be by two months, abusing his powers to ignore 75% of Americans who don’t want it to be a crime to smoke a joint.